05.09.2017 at 19:45 Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland
0 - 1
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)
World Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
Aleksander Kolarov 55 mins
James Mc Clean
Nikola Maksimovic 68 mins
The Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes suffered a huge blow as 10-man Serbia took firm control of Group D by winning in Dublin.
Former Manchester City defender Aleksander Kolarov scored on 55 minutes and the visitors held on despite Nikola Maksimovic's 68th-minute red card.
The Republic were much improved from the 1-1 draw in Georgia but the defeat drops them to third in the group.
Serbia are four points clear of Wales, with the Irish a further point back.
Midfielder David Meyler said after the game that he thought his team were "still in a good position" but the table would suggest otherwise.
While the Serbs will win Group D if they beat Austria in Vienna on 6 October, the Republic's qualification hopes now look likely to rest on clinching a play-off spot by finishing above Wales, who beat Moldova 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Martin O'Neill's team play Moldova in Dublin on 6 October and then face a potentially crucial match against Wales in Cardiff three days later.
But even finishing second would not necessarily guarantee a play-off place - they will be filled by the eight best runners-up in the nine European qualifying groups so one nation finishing second will miss out.
Skipper Walters says Republic will fight all the way
Improved Republic just cannot find the net
Tuesday's match ended in O'Neill's first qualifying defeat in Dublin but his team certainly had enough chances to score.
The selection of Wes Hoolahan and the performance of man of the match David Meyler led to a massively improved display from Saturday's game in Tbilisi.
Brighton defender Shane Duffy had the ball in Serbia's net in the 10th minute but the header was correctly ruled out for offside, before a Shane Long effort was tipped over by Vladimir Stojkovic.
Substitute Daryl Murphy, who had been dragged down just outside the box in the incident that led to Maksimovic's red card, appeared to have been hauled back by Jagos Vukovic in the 76th minute but Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakis waved away the penalty claims.
Amid intense late Irish pressure, Murphy had a chance to level on 86 minutes, but his right-foot shot from the edge of the area was fired straight at keeper Stojkovic.
And to complete a miserable night, bookings for Robbie Brady and James McClean from challenges born largely of frustration mean they will miss the home qualifier against Moldova on 6 October.
Shane Duffy headed the Serbian net in the first half but it was correctly ruled out for offside
Serbia, unbeaten in qualifying going into the match, had vastly experienced players such as Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic - and as they closed out a game they played for nearly half an hour with 10 men that know-how proved invaluable.
They drew fouls at every opportunity and were adept at slowing the game down, with Stojkovic eventually booked for time wasting.
After the Republic's bright start, the Serbs had begun to look dangerous as Darren Randolph denied Newcastle's Aleksander Mitrovic and Antonio Rukavina also shot over after more brilliant Kostic invention.
But their goal eventually came through Kolarov, who smashed in his left-foot winner off the underside of the bar after being played in by the superb Kostic.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (GK), Christie, Clark, Long, Brady, McClean, Hoolahan (Murphy 61), Ward (O'Dowda 71), Meyler (Hourihane 79), Walters (C), Duffy.
Subs not used: Westwood (GK), Elliot (GK), O'Shea, Keogh, Whelan, Horgan, Long, Hayes, Arter.
Serbia: Stojkovic (GK), Rukavina, Ivanovic (C), Mitrovic (Prijovic 79), Tadic (Gudelj 81), Kolarov, Vukovic, Millvojevic, Kostic (S Mitrovic 72), Maksimovic, Matic,
Subs not used: Jovanovic (GK), Rajkovic (GK), Obradovic, Nastasic, Tosic, Gacinovic, Spajic, Radoja, Ljajic.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)
Yellow card(s): Rukavina, McClean, Brady, Stojkovic.
Red card: Maksimovic
O'Neill's run ends - the stats
The Republic of Ireland lost their first competitive home game under Martin O'Neill, ending a run of nine games without defeat at the Aviva Stadium.
It was their first defeat at the Aviva Stadium in competitive action since September 2013 (v Sweden), under Giovanni Trapattoni.
They remain winless against Serbia, with both of their losses coming on home soil (D3 L2).
Martin O'Neill's side have scored just two goals at home in 2018 World Cup qualifying; only Faroe Islands (1) and Latvia, San Marino and Liechtenstein (all zero) have scored fewer amongst European nations.
Belgium's Thomas Meunier (4) is the only defender to have scored more goals than Aleksandar Kolarov (2) in 2018 European World Cup qualifying.