A last-gasp bullet header from Abdallah El-Said gave Ahly a priceless 2-1 home victory over Tanzania's Young Africans that sent them to the African Champions League group stage at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Wednesday.
Roared on by their passionate fans, Ahly - who played out a 1-1 first-leg draw at Young Africans - took the lead through skipper Hossam Ghaly in the 51st minute to send the home crowd into raptures in what initially seemed to be an easy contest.
Ahly's hardcore supporters, however, were silenced in the 67th minute when an apparently toothless Young Africans side managed to equalise through Donald Ngoma following some shambolic defending from the hosts' backline.
But a powerful header from El-Said in the fourth minute of stoppage time left the crowd wildly celebrating a hard-fought triumph against an opponent who were on the verge of taking the game to penalties.
The Ahly fans were allowed to cheer on their side after their Zamalek counterparts had been allowed to attend their team's home clash against MO Bejaia at Cairo's Petrosport Stadium last week.
With manager Martin Jol expressing more than once his wish to see the club fans egging on their side from the stands, the Ahly ardent supporters did not miss the chance to welcome the Dutch boss with a special banner dedicated to him.
Ahly's win recalled memories of a similar victory in 2010 when a last-gasp powerful shot from midfielder Shehab Ahmed sent them to the group stage at the expense of Lib
Tear gas was heared outside the stadium as the match wore on, with security forces trying to disperse some Ahly supporters. Those who were inside the stadium were not distracted though, feverishly chanting slogans not heard for long due to a crowd ban in domestic matches.
Young Africans looked to intimidate Ahly in the opening stages by committing men forward and pressing high up the pitch, yet the visitors did not quite look the side capable of posing real threat on goal.
Ahly, on the other side, weren't able to cope well with their opponents' early approach, with Egypt center-back Ramy Rabia conceding possession in dangerous positions twice after failing to properly get the ball forward from the back.
But the first chance of the game belonged to the Reds, with lone striker Amr Gamal seeing a strike from inside the area kept away by the keeper following Moemen Zakareya's cut-back in the seventh minute.
As time passed, Young Africans opted to sit deep and allow the Ahly backline all time on the ball, but despite enjoying space within their opponents' deep block, Ahly failed to threaten until five minutes from the break.
Striker Gamal was involved again, this time laying the ball off to playmaker El-Said - whose strike from outside the area was gathered by the keeper.
Just three minutes into the second half, Zakareya cut inside from wide before dispatching a shot that was saved by keeper Deo Munish.
With Ramadan Sobhi looking Ahly's main source of danger down the left, a goal seemed likely from the teenager, but it was a corner kick from Ahmed Fathi headed successfully by Ghaly that gave Ahly the lead in the 53rd minute.
Ahly seemed energized after the goal, and El-Said had an effort from inside the area blocked by keeper Munish, who managed to thwart the home side on several occasions on the night, following a surge from Sobhi down the flank.
The eight-time African champions, however, were pegged back by the Tanzanians in the 67th minute, after left-back Sabri Rahil allowed Juma Mnyamani to skip past him before the latter crossed to Ngoma who beat keeper Sherif Ekramy at the near post.
After both Ahmed Hegazy and substitute Malick Evouna missed chances from inside the box, it was time for El-Said to give Ahly the all-important goal in the dying moments.
Walid Soliman – who occupied the left-back zone following the introduction of Emad Meteb in place of Rahil – whipped in a swerving cross into the box as El-Said pounced on with a bullet header that sent Ahly through.