Yu struck in the 37th minute to send the 60,000 in the stadium and millions watching on television into raptures as the world抯 most
populous nation finally dispensed of their tag as perennial underachievers.
Bora Milutinovic's side moved six points clear of nearest rivals the United Arab Emirates with the win with two games remaining. The UAE have only one game left to play and cannot mathematically catch the Chinese.
Despite the significance of the game, the performances of both teams were low key with neither team in a hurry to dominate.
A dull first half was lifted when Yu hit what turned out to be the only goal of the game eight minutes from the interval.
The Tianjin midfielder, in the starting line-up as a result of Qi Hong's suspension for two yellow cards, applied the finishing touch to a move that started with a well-measured cross-field ball from Li Tie.
Li's ball from the left was nodded back across goal by Li Xiaopeng to Hao Haidong. Who flicked the ball into Yu's path and he swept the ball home with his right foot.
It was only the second significant shot on goal the Chinese had had in the first half, Hao Haidong earlier hitting the side netting.
But it proved to be enough as the game fizzled out, with Yang Chen supplying the only other opportunity of note eight minutes after the restart when he rounded Oman goalkeeper Bader Jumaa before seeing his shot cleared for a corner.
It wasn't to matter, however, as a point would have been enough to ensure China a place at their first-ever World Cup finals and Milutinovic his fifth with a different nation.