Belgium wrestled their way clear at the top of FIFA World Cup Group A as Kevin De Bruyne and Marouane Fellaini struck the goals in a narrow win over Serbia in Brussels.
Coupled with second-placed Croatia's surprise 1-0 home loss to Scotland, the result moved Marc Wilmots' men three points clear at the head of the section with three games to play. The Red Devils were in front early on as De Bruyne nodded his country into the lead. Fellaini doubled the advantage after the break, before Aleksandar Kolarov's late free-kick set up a nervy finish.
After a 3-0 victory in the reverse fixture in October, Belgium were confident of disposing of Serbia with ease, and the game appeared to be following the expected pattern when Christian Benteke released Jan Vertonghen on the left; his cross was met sweetly by De Bruyne at the back post to open the scoring. Aston Villa FC forward Benteke then missed a clear opening to increase the Serbian arrears, before, at the other end, Toby Alderweireld needed to be alert to prevent Lazar Marković's attempt crossing the line.
On the hour the home side made it two when Everton FC midfielder Fellaini powered his way to the front of the queue to get on the end of De Bruyne's corner and head the second.
Belgian No1 Thibaut Courtois had helped to keep Siniša Mihajlović's Serbia at bay throughout, yet could do nothing three minutes from time when Kolarov's 20-metre free-kick flew low into the bottom corner.
There was to be no late drama at the Roi Baudouin, however, meaning Belgium will take a three-point cushion in Group A to Scotland on 6 September, before a potentially group-deciding journey to Croatia on 11 October. Serbia can do tonight's opponents a favour when they are next in action, as neighbours Croatia visit in September.