(CNN) -- Robbie Keane kept the Republic of Ireland's dream of automatic qualification for the World Cup finals alive with a last-gasp equaliser to hold 10-man defending champions Italy to a 1-1 draw in Bari.
Robbie Keane is congratulated after snatching a qualifying draw away to world champions Italy.
The Tottenham striker stabbed home an 87th-minute shot at the San Nicola Stadium to claim a point which keeps Ireland within touching distance of the Italians at the top of Group Eight.
It also ensured manager Giovanni Trapattoni a share of the spoils against his home country and the man who replaced him as national boss, Marcello Lippi.
Italy had taken an 11th-minute lead when Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta converted Fabio Grosso's cross Iaquinta despite having had striker Giampaolo Pazzini sent off after three minutes into his first start for his country.
German referee Wolfgang Stark showed Pazzini a straight red card after catching Mancherdster United defender John O'Shea with his arm.
Simone Pepe later fired into the side-netting as Ireland struggled to make an impression despite their numerical advantage, although Gianluigi Buffon had to tip over a 40th-minute half-volley from Stephen Hunt.
Andy Keogh had been pitched into battle with world champions as the Republic of Ireland attempted to drag themselves back into the race for automatic qualification.
The 22-year-old Wolves striker was drafted in on the right side of midfield in place of the injured Aiden McGeady, but he was hauled off after only 22 minutes with his side struggling to make an impression.
The World Cup holders continued to dominate and Trapattoni's men appeared to be banging their heads against a blue wall as a defense marshalled superbly by the vastly experienced Fabio Cannavaro stood firm.
The Irish then started to force the pace in the last quarter and were rewarded with Keane's goal.
Third-placed Bulgaria overcame the absence of star striker Dimitar Berbatov and reignited their hopes of reaching South Africa with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Cyprus in Sofia to claim their first pool victory.
An early goal from Ivelin Popov and a second in stoppage time from Dimitar Makriev took the hosts to seven points in the group in a game from which Cyprus will feel they deserved more.
Also in Group Eight tonight, Georgia and Montenegro both remain winless after battling out an uninspiring goalless draw in Tbilisi.
Franck Ribery earned France a 1-0 victory over Lithuania for the second time in five days in their World Cup 2010 qualifying match in Paris on Wednesday.
The Bayern Munich winger scored from long range to sink the Baltic side in Kaunas on Saturday, and he proved the match-winner again after his side struggled for much of the game.
"The Lithuanians came, they stayed back and they kept their shape," said France midfielder Lassana Diarra. "We had total control of the ball. We just had to be patient and in the end we won."
Victory enabled Les Bleus to leapfrog their opponents into second place in European qualifying Group Seven, two points behind leaders Serbia after five matches.
"The result does us good," Diarra added. "It puts a spring in our step, we can't deny it. But the path to qualification is long and it's not over. If we preserve this feeling, we can do beautiful things."
Ribery twice tested visiting goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas from distance as the hosts made all the early running in front of a capacity Stade de France crowd.