Zambia snatched an unexpected quarter-final place at the Africa Cup of Nations on Thursday as they beat Gabon 2-1 in their final Group D game played in Benguela.
Goals by Rainford Kalaba and James Chamanga were enough to see the Zambians through with four points from their three matches.
As Cameroon drew 2-2 with Tunisia in the other match, Cameroon and Gabon also finished on four points, but Zambia won the group on the number of goals scored.
Cameroon finished second, while Gabon are third. Tunisia were knocked out without losing a game with three points.
Zambia, who went into the game knowing that they needed to win if they wanted to remain in the competition, began with more purpose as they went forward in search of goals.
Their first real chance of the game came only midway through the first half though as Clifford Mulenga set up Felix Katongo, but the Sundowns midfielder pulled his ball wide.
In the 28th minute Felix Katongo again fed the ball through – this time to Kalaba and the midfielder, who plays for Portuguese club Uniao Leiria, finished well to beat Didier Ovono in goals for Gabon.
The West Africans finally had a chance in the 33rd minute as Roguy Meye closed in on goal, only to see the Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene rush off his line to prevent him from scoring.
The Chipolopolo could have doubled their lead shortly before the break when Chris Katongo’s free-kick was headed wide by Mulenga.
Zambia had a very strong penalty appeal turned down by Algerian referee Benouza Mohamed on the hour after Mulenga evaded his marker in the area only to be brought down by Bruno Ecuele.
Just two minutes later it was again Mulenga who was the danger-man in the Cabonese area as he could not be separated from the ball before laying off to Chamanga who had no problems in pushing the ball over the line from close range.
Gabon pulled one back in the 83rd minute when substitute Fabrice do Marcolino found the back of the net after beating a defender.
Although Zambia had to endure a nerve-racking final few minutes, they held on in the end to win 2-1 and go through to the quarter- finals, where they will meet Nigeria in Lubango on Monday.
Cameroon face Egypt in the other quarter-final in Benguela on the same day.