Italy the Netherlands and Israel won their qualifiers but Portugal wasted a chance to become the second European nation to clinch a berth when it tied Russia 0-0.
At night The United States which clinched its fifth straight berth by beating Mexico on Saturday played to a 0-0 tie at Guatemala while fielding a squad of younger and more inexperienced players as a result of their prior qualification.
Mexico routed visiting Panama 5-0 on goals by Luis Perez Rafael Maquez Jared Borgetti Francisco Fonseca and Pavel Pardo to become the 10th nation in the 32-team field for next year's tournament.
Costa Rica (4-3-1) which won 2-0 at home over Trinidad and Tobago on goals by Alvaro Saborio and Walter Centeno has pulled away in third place in North and Central America and the Caribbean with 13 points and needs only two more points to get the region's third spot. Guatemala (2-4-2) has eight points one head of Trinidad (2-5-1) in the fight to finish fourth and earn a spot in a playoff against Bahrain or Uzbekistan for another berth.
England lost to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1972 and at Belfast for the first time in 78 years with David Healy beating an offside trap to chip the ball off the hand of goalkeeper Paul Robinson and into the goal in the 74th minute. Sven-Goran Eriksson a Swede who is England's first foreign coach already had been severely criticized following a 4-1 exhibition loss to Denmark last month and a 1-0 win at Wales on Saturday.
"I'm not going to resign Eriksson said. "I am going to try and make it right in October win two games and we've qualified."
But that won't be easy if England continues to play so poorly.
"Tonight it has been a bit of an embarrassment for the lads captain David Beckham said. "Tonight hurts more than any night probably but we stick together that's all we can do. If we win the next two games we go top of the group that's all we have to do."
England will have to do it against Austria on Oct. 8 without striker Wayne Rooney who picked up a yellow card.
Beckham tried to calm Rooney down but the 19-year-old Manchester United striker pushed him away cursed the linesman and ignored a plea from assistant coach Steve McClaren to compose himself.
Poland (8-1) which won 1-0 at Wales leads Group Six with 24 points five ahead of England (6-1-1) which hosts the Poles four days after the Austria match.
The eight European group winners and top two second-place teams qualify and the other six second-place teams go to playoffs.
Luca Toni scored three goals and Mauro Camoranesi one as Italy overcame an early deficit to win 4-1 at Belarus. It was the first three-goal game for an Italian player in an away game not including neutral sites since Silvio Piola in a 1939 exhibition game at Finland.
Italy (5-1-2) is atop Group Five with 17 points five ahead of Slovenia and Norway (both 3-2-3). Slovenia won 2-1 at Moldova and Norway lost 2-1 at Scotland.
The Netherlands moved to the brink of qualifying with a 4-0 win over visiting Andorra. Ruud van Nistelrooy scored twice but missed a penalty kick for the Dutch (9-0-1) which lead Group One with 28 points. The Czech Republic second at 8-2 is four points back following a 4-1 win over visiting Armenia.
At Dublin Henry beat goalkeeper Shay Given with a curling shot in the 68th minute leading France over Ireland 1-0. France and Switzerland which won 3-1 at Cyprus have 16 points apiece and 4-0-4 records.
"It's a very big result. We played really well defensively and nicked a goal Henry said.
Israel which won 2-0 at the Faeroe Islands on second-half goals by Avi Nimni and Yaniv is one point back at 3-0-6 and Ireland is three behind at 3-1-4.
Despite failing to win with a man advantage for the entire second half Portugal (7-0-3) heads Group Three with 24 points five in front of Slovakia which tied 1-1 at Latvia and Russia (both 5-1-4).
Spain went ahead on Raul Gonzalez's goal in the 19th minute but gave up a goal to Mateja Kezman in the 69th and tied visiting Serbia-Montenegro 1-1. Serbia (4-0-4) maintained a two-point lead in Group Seven over Spain (3-0-5) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (3-1-5) which won 1-0 at Lithuania.
Greece got a big victory at Kazakhstan when Nikos Liberopoulos scored four minutes into injury time. Ukraine (7-1-3) has clinched first place in Group Two and Greece (5-2-3) is two points behind Turkey (5-1-5) which won 1-0 at Ukraine for second place.
Argentina and Brazil also have qualified to join host Germany at the World Cup along with Iran Japan Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
Germany which received an automatic berth beat visiting South Africa 4-2 in an exhibition game. Lukas Podolski scored three goals and set up another.