Jurgen Klinsmann was smiling after his USA side moved clear at the top of Conmebol log in the race to Brazil 2014.
The Stars and Stripes saw off Panama 2-0 at home thanks to goals by Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson, to cement a two-point lead over Costa Rica.
Costa Rica meanwhile, are also going strong.
The Ticos picked up a valuable point, drawing 0-0 with disappointing Mexico, who have suffered a lacklustre qualifying campaign.
Mexico are under pressure as they head to Brazil for the Confederations Cup in poor form, with their grip on the third qualifying place for the World Cup tentative and on goal difference.
Honduras are breathing down Mexico’s neck for automatic qualification, after they moved into fourth place on the log by beating basement dwellers Jamaica 2-0.
The top three teams from Conmebol will gain entry to the World Cup, with the team that finishes fourth to play an eliminator against New Zealand.