Mark Gonzalez's late header was enough for Chile to overcome a stubborn defensive display from 10-man Switzerland and leave the South Americans on the verge of qualification for the last 16.
The former Liverpool winger rose to head home an Estaban Paredas cross with quarter of an hour remaining to reward Chile's persistence if not their prolific creativity.
In holding the South Americans beyond the 67 minute mark, Switzerland surpassed the record for the longest run without conceding a goal at the World Cup finals, but they were made to work hard for this feat after Valon Behrami was sent off for raising an arm to Arturo Vidal.
The result gives Chile their second successive victory following an opening 1-0 win over Honduras and leaves them top of Group H on six points ahead of a final game against Spain on Friday.
Switzerland, who beat the Spanish in their first game, can still qualify if they beat Honduras and the other result goes their way.
The game promised much, with the irresistible force of the exciting Chile attack meeting the immoveable object that is the Swiss defence, but this reckoned without an influential third party - referee Khalil Al Ghamdi.
In the very first minute, Chile striker Humberto Suazo was booked for a high tackle, which set the tone for the Saudi Arabian official's performance.
Suazo's yellow was the first of nine - many of which were questionable - during a game consistently halted for minor indiscretions and needless flare-ups as the referee's control diminished.
This played into the hands of the conservative Swiss until what seemed like an inevitable red card materialised on the half hour when Behrami raised his arm into the face of Vidal as the Chilean challenged from behind, resulting in an instant dismissal and enraged protests amongst the Switzerland ranks.
Prior to this, the Swiss had been typically cautious and containing, with the only chances of note a dipping 25-yard effort from Chile's Vidal, which Diego Benaglio palmed away, and Carlos Carmona's 20-yard follow-up, which the keeper was also equal to.
After the red card, Switzerland's commitment to frustrating their opponents was total, a testimony to which was the withdrawal of record goalscorer Alexander Frei, who like Behrami had been recalled for this match, but failed to last until half-time.
Suazo, who with 10 goals was top scorer in South American qualifying, but missed Chile's opening game through injury, made it longer than his returning Swiss counterparts, but his substitution at half-time was a result of an uneventful first half, featuring just one effort, which he headed well over.
Chile's most likely source of a goal was forward Alexis Sanchez, who had his side's only other attempts of the opening 45 minutes, the first of which he struck straight at Benaglio from 12 yards and the second the keeper comfortably gathered after the 21-year-old's attempted cross had deflected to him.
Sanchez thought he had finally ended the Swiss reistance early in the second half when his shot from 20 yards deflected in off substitute Jorge Valdivia, but the latter was offside at the initial shot and celebrations were cut short by a linesman's flag.
Minutes later a mistake by Steve von Bergen allowed Sanchez to bear down on goal, but he slightly overran it and Benaglio was able to block at his feet before the ball was hammered to safety.
It was not long after Switzerland surpassed Italy's World Cup clean sheet record - set between 1986 and 1990 - that Chile broke the deadlock when substitute Gonzalez made amends for an earlier missed header by rising at the back post to head in after Paredes had skipped past Benaglio to supply the cross.
Paredas had two late chances of his own to ease his side's nerves but he shot wide with both before Swiss substitute Eren Derdiyok had a golden opportunity to snatch a point. But with the goal at his mercy he shot past the post from 12 yards out.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
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