Shane Long and Dušan Tadić locked horns in Group D of World Cup qualifying, as Serbia ran out 1-0 winners in Dublin.
In a crucial clash for the hosts, who started the evening two points behind their opponents, Shane Duffy had a goal ruled out for offside inside ten minutes.
And Long was soon involved in the action, when he tested Vladimir Stojković after latching on to Jonathan Walter’s pass, before drifting inside and unleashing a ferocious drive.
The deadlock was broken on 55 minutes though, when Filip Kostic teed up Aleksandar Kolarov, whose saw a thunderous effort cannon in off the underside of Darren Randolph’s crossbar.
An increasingly pulsating encounter took another twist when Serbia defender Nikola Maksimović was dismissed for bringing down Daryl Murphy as he chased a through ball that would have given him a goalscoring chance.
Ireland could not capitalise though and suffered their first defeat in the qualifying campaign, with Wales' victory in Moldova meaning they slipped to third place.
Long completed the full 90 minutes, with Tadić being withdrawn for Nemanja Gudelj with ten minutes remaining, and both will now return to Southampton to prepare for Saturday's Premier League clash against Watford.