Ten-man Republic of Ireland missed the chance to secure Euro 2020 qualification as goals in each half earned Switzerland a 2-0 victory in Geneva.
Haris Seferovic struck after 16 minutes before the Swiss made the points certain in added time courtesy of Edimilson Fernandes on what was a night to forget for the Irish.
Vladimir Petkovic's side also saw a Ricardo Rodriguez penalty superbly tipped onto the post by Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph with 13 minutes remaining after Seamus Coleman saw red following a handball inside the penalty area.
The result throws Group D wide open, with the Swiss moving within one point of Mick McCarthy's team, who remain top, and Denmark, with the latter pair having played a game less.
The game had only been given the all clear to go ahead by Polish referee Szymon Marciniak one hour and 45 minutes before kick-off after rain throughout the day.
And Switzerland served an early warning in the sixth minute when Granit Xhaka threatened from distance with a bouncing effort which Ireland goalkeeper Randolph did well to turn away given the conditions.
However, 10 minutes later the home side were ahead thanks to Seferovic, who showed close control on the edge of the area before superbly firing a low shot inside the right post, Admir Mehmedi providing the assist.
The home side dominated possession and limited McCarthy's side's threat in the opening half, however Shane Duffy threatened from a Glenn Whelan corner.
The outstanding Randolph came to Ireland's rescue more than once in the second half, first tipping a glancing Seferovic header over his crossbar before superbly tipping Fabian Schar's header onto the right post after the Newcastle United defender met Rodriguez's corner.
Rodriguez could have sealed it from the penalty spot late on only for Randolph's fine save after Coleman's handball earned him a second yellow card.
It proved inconsequential, however, as substitute Fernandes fired home in added time after good work from Renato Steffen despite the best efforts of the sliding Duffy, who could not prevent it finding the net.
What does it mean? Group D finely poised
It could scarcely be tighter. Ireland remain top of Group D but they knew victory in Geneva would have sealed qualification. While that opportunity has now passed, they are still very much in with a chance. Their final group game comes at home to the side level with them on points, Denmark, who denied them qualification for the 2018 World Cup in the play-offs.
Both the Danes and the Swiss, who are a point further back, still have a game in hand to come - meaning the Irish could find themselves third by the time they play on the final night of qualifying on November 18.
That they will have to do it without the suspended Coleman and Duffy, who picked up a yellow card which also rules him out, is a significant blow.
Talismanic Seferovic once again key to Swiss success
Benfica forward Seferovic was a constant menace, leading the Swiss line with purpose. He has now been directly involved in 10 goals (eight goals and two assists) in his last eight home appearances for the national team.
No fairytale competitive debut for teenage striker Connolly
At the age of 19 years and 260 days, Aaron Connolly became the youngest player to start a competitive international for the Republic since Robbie Keane 20 years ago. Those are ominously big boots to fill. The addition of a forward plying his trade in the Premier League is a boost to Ireland's attacking ranks, but the pairing of the Brighton forward alongside Luton's James Collins lacked the nous to trouble the Swiss rearguard and they often found themselves isolated. Both were substituted.
Key Opta Stats:
- Ireland have suffered their first defeat under McCarthy since he returned as boss last year, and for the first time under him since they also lost to Switzerland during his final game in charge of his first stint in October 2002.
- After scoring 12 consecutive penalties for club and country between 2014 and 2018, Switzerland’s Rodriguez has now missed two of his last five such spot-kicks (one for AC Milan).
- Ireland have failed to score in back-to-back competitive matches under McCarthy for the very first time, having never done so during his first reign as manager between 1996 and 2002.
- Coleman became the first Ireland player to be red carded in a competitive international since Duffy was sent off during their Euro 2016 last-16 match against France.
- Ireland suffered their first defeat of the campaign (P7 W3 D3 L1), leaving Denmark as the only remaining unbeaten side within the group.
Ireland host New Zealand in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on November 14 before hosting Denmark four days later in their final group game. Switzerland, meanwhile, host Georgia on November 15 before finishing with a trip to bottom side Gibraltar.