Gordon Igesund's men were too good for the visitors in Durban on Saturday but it was irrelevant as Ethiopia's win eradicated the 2010 hosts' finals chancesSouth Africa have failed to reach consecutive World Cup finals despite beating Botswana 4-1 in their final group game of Caf qualification.
Bafana Bafana needed to win to have any chance of making the play-offs for the finals in Brazil next summer but Ethiopia's 2-1 win at Central African Republic scuppered their hopes.
The crowd tried to roar the side to an opener from the start and, in the 27th minute, their prayers were answered when Siphiwe Tshabalala's corner was headed by Bernard Parker as a flick-on to the far post where Orlando Pirates' new striker Kermit Erasmus nodded his first international goal into the roof of the net.
Doncaster Rovers star Dean Furman doubled the lead just before half-time following a flurry of missed opportunities by side-footing into the net off the post.
Bafana started the second half with a spring in their step after hearing that Ethiopia were 1-0 down at the break but they were caught exposed at the back and Botswana's Jerome Ramatlhakwana pounced to pull one back in the 73rd minute.
It was nervous times for the South African fans after hearing that Ethiopia had staged a comeback but a beautifully-placed free kick from Parker provided temporary respite heading into the final 10 minutes.
Parker scored again from the penalty spot soon afterwards but it was not enough to secure a place in the play-offs due to Ethiopia's three points and the 2010 World Cup hosts will play no part in next summer's tournament.