Zimbabwe has effectively failed to reach the Cricket World Cup for the first time since 1983 after it lost a must-win qualification match against the already eliminated United Arab Emirates by three runs on Thursday.
Zimbabwe, which is hosting the qualifiers, needed to beat associate side UAE to make the tournament in England and Wales in 2019.
The result left new test teams Ireland and Afghanistan playing a virtual knockout match on Friday, with the winner qualifying for the Cricket World Cup and playing the West Indies in the qualification final on Sunday.
Zimbabwe would qualify if Ireland and Afghanistan play to a low-scoring tie. If there's no result, Ireland advances on net run rate.
After UAE totaled 235-7 in 47.5 overs in an innings cut short by rain, Zimbabwe's revised target was 230 in 40 overs.
But the African side was able to reach only 226-7, depressing a partisan crowd that thronged Harare Sports Club and cheered the host side throughout.
"Unfortunately, we just stumbled at the last hurdle," Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer said."We had good chances of being in the final. I thought we played really good cricket up until now. Today was very disappointing."
The defeat was a setback for Zimbabwe, which has often experienced strife since 2004 from politically motivated boardroom squabbles. Asked about the future of the game in Zimbabwe, Cremer said: "We were almost certain that we were going to qualify. I'm sure a lot of people felt that way, too. So I'm not really sure."
The last-placed UAE enjoyed its first win in the round-robin.
"It's a big win for us, beating a test team," captain Rohan Mustafa said. "No one knew about us, now they'll know about us. Feel sorry for Zimbabwe, but that's sport."