Javier Hernandez enhanced his burgeoning reputation with the opening goal as Mexico took a significant step towards qualification from Group A with a 2-0 victory which hastened France's early exit at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
Just nine minutes after coming off the bench the 22-year-old, who will officially move to Manchester United from Chivas in a £7million deal next month, sprang the offside trap to race on to Rafael Marquez's pass, round goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and coolly slot home.
Veteran striker and cult hero Cuauhtemoc Blanco sealed victory with a 79th-minute penalty.
It was Mexico's first win over France at senior level and no less than they deserved after a performance full of vigour and attacking invention.
For the French, winners on home soil in 1998 and runners-up four years ago, the prospect of ignominious failure looms large - as it did at Euro 2008 when they failed to progress from their group.
Most of the fluid, attacking football was played by Mexico, particularly before the interval. Uruguay's win over South Africa on Wednesday night to go top of the group had increased the pressure on both sides but they responded with some refreshingly open, if not decisive, play.
But whereas France were restricted to set-pieces, Mexico looked dangerous from open play. Marquez's ball over the top saw three team-mates set off in pursuit; Arsenal's Carlos Vela reached it first but could not keep his 12-yard volley down.
Mexico left-back Carlos Salcido twice went close, drilling wide of Lloris' left-hand post and then shooting straight at the goalkeeper.
But the introduction of Hernandez for Efrain Juarez soon after had an almost immediate impact. His pace took him clear of the defence and his talent did the rest.
When Eric Abidal brought down Pablo Barrera, Blanco side-footed home from the spot to spark wild Mexican celebrations. A draw against Uruguay on Tuesday will put both sides through and send France home, irrespective of their result against the hosts.
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