Wales suffered a minor setback in their pursuit of Euro 2020 qualification as an own-goal from Tom Lawrence and a clinical Ivan Perisic finish secured a 2-1 win for Croatia.
Wideman David Brooks' hopeful effort in the closing stages deflected in off the head of an opponent to give Ryan Giggs' men hope, but their late resurgence ultimately proved fruitless.
Croatia 2-1 Wales
The two sides sat level on points at the start of play, both having racked up three points in Group E despite the Croats playing one game more. New Manchester United signing Daniel James gave the Welsh a slender victory over Slovakia last time out, whilst Croatia slipped up away to Hungary having won their opening match with Azerbaijan.
On a sweltering day in Osijek, the hosts pressurised a shaky Wales backline for much of the first-half, breaking the deadlock when Lawrence failed to deal with a fierce Perisic cross, inadvertently beating his own goalkeeper with a mishit clearance.
Though Gareth Bale responded courageously, the Real Madrid superstar was unable to find the back of the net with a collection of blistering drives, instead watching on as his teammates' erroneous defending handed Perisic a fine opportunity to double the lead.
The latter duly slotted past Wayne Hennessey when a mix-up in the box saw the ball fall at his feet, giving his team an advantage they would hold on to for the remainder of the contest.
Bournemouth's dazzling winger Brooks was first fortunate to see his 77th-minute attempt from the edge of the area ricochet awkwardly into the goal, before finding his luck had run out as he fell agonisingly short of connecting with a delicious delivery from out wide.
Nevertheless, the Welsh have plenty left to play for, with their destiny still firmly within their control.
Burnley supporters will be pleased to see cult hero Johann Berg Gudmundsson stealing the show as Iceland downed Albania to keep pace with those at the top of Group H. The midfielder grabbed the only goal as he carved open the opposition defence with a determined burst forward, bamboozling defenders with twists and turns before sliding a low shot underneath the onrushing 'keeper.
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi struck a quick-fire brace to set Argentina on their way to a routine 5-1 win over Nicaragua, whilst Roberto Pereyra of Watford also got on the scoresheet to double his tally for the South Americans.
Here are all of Saturday's results and fixtures:
|Group C||Estonia vs Northern Ireland|
|Group C||Belarus vs Germany|
|Group E||Croatia 2-1 Wales|
|Group E||Azerbaijan vs Hungary|
|Group H||Iceland 1-0 Albania|
|Group H||Moldova vs Andorra|
|Group H||Turkey vs France|
|Group I||Russia vs San Marino|
|Group I||Belgium vs Kazakhstan|
|Group I||Scotland vs Cyprus|
|Group J||Armenia vs Lichtenstein|
|Group J||Finland vs Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|Group J||Greece vs Italy|
|Friendly||Argentina 5-1 Nicaragua|