Had Panama and Mexico drawn, Honduras would have joined the United States and Costa Rica as CONCACAF's three automatic qualifier.
But a spectacular late winner from Mexico's Raul Jimenez not only revived Mexico's World Cup hopes but also put the Honduras celebrations on hold.
Honduras need only a draw from Tuesday's match at Jamaica, who have yet to register a single win in the six-national final phase of CONCACAF qualifying.
Honduras could still qualify automatically if they lost and they retained a better goal difference than Mexico. They are already assured of at least a playoff spot against Oceania winners New Zealand.
Mexico are the only team with a mathematical chance of leapfrogging Honduras for the third automatic place but have no guarantees of their own.
Leading Panama by three points heading into the last round, Mexico only need a draw in their final match at Costa Rica to score the playoff shot.
The odds are still in Mexico's favour but should they lose, Panama, who have never made it to the World Cup, could overtake them for the playoff berth.
To do that, they would have to beat the visiting Americans and finish with a better overall goal difference, but their chances have received a boost with U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann resting some of his key players.
Landon Donovan (ankle) and Jermaine Jones (knee) were both released because of injuries while Matt Besler and Tim Howard were given a break as part of a planned rotation of players.