The UAE's hopes of progressing to the next round were left hanging by a thread after they suffered their second successive defeat in the joint AFC Asian Cup and World Cup qualification on Thursday night.
The Whites, who had gone down to Thailand in their previous game, lost by a solitary goal to a spirited Vietnam at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi.
Tien Linh Nguyen scored the match winner with just a minute left in the first half. The result left the UAE in third, while Vietnam went top of the table.
In Kuala Lumpur, Thailand were beaten 2-1 by Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
The UAE were without their leading goal scorer Ali Mabkhout, serving a one-match suspension after accumulating yellow cards. And that showed in their performance as they missed his incision and his searing runs inside the box.
As it is, the Vietnam defence held themselves up well against the visitors.
It began as a mad scramble in midfield with both teams unable to make the final third of the pitch in the opening minutes.
Talisman Omar Abdulrahman, who was his usual self, pulling the strings in the middle, came up with an attempt on eight minutes when he curled one from the left. But his effort was a tad too high and sailed over.
Vietnam's first foray close to the final third came on 19 minutes but the UAE backline warded off the danger.
Ahmed Khalil had a brush in the next minute but nothing came off it.
Backed by a vociferous crowd, the hosts grew in strength. They earned a freekick on 21 minutes and Hung Dung Do rifled a dangerous one in but the UAE defence, led by the rock-solid Walid Abbas, was up to the task.
Vietnam kept at it and had another opportunity on 36 minutes when Trong Hoang Nguyen made his way from the right and passed. But Tien Linh Nguyen's first-time shot went wide of the post.
A minute later, the UAE were down to 10 men after Khalifa Al Hammadi was sent off by referee Jumpei Iida after he cut off Tien Linh Nguyen's dangerous solo run down the middle.
And Quang Hai Nguyen drilled it into the wall and Duy Manh Do shot the rebound wide from the resultant freekick.
But with just a minute left before the break, Vietnam broke the deadlock through a brilliant effort from Tien Linh Nguyen.
Tien came up with a clean and crisp strike from just outside the box, high and past shot stopper Khalid Eisa.
The UAE made a frantic move in the two minutes of added time but returned with nothing.
The game picked up pace in the second half with some end-to-end football. Tien, who was the standout on the night, came up with a move down the left and squared it up but UAE defender Mohamed Al Attas averted it by kicking it away for a corner.
Vietnam came close to doubling their tally with as minute left on the clock but Quang Hai Nguyen fired it just wide of the left post from close range.
The UAE's next assignment is the Gulf Cup of Nations, while they resume World Cup qualifying next March. Coach Bert van Marwijk's men are at home to Malaysia on March 26.
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