Democratic Republic of Congo took a significant step on Monday toward a third consecutive African Nations Championship (CHAN) appearance with a 1-0 victory in Cameroon.
Midfielder Ndombe Mubele scored 70 minutes into a match delayed 24 hours because the Sudanese match officials arrived late in northern cotton city Garoua.
Mubele punished a poor clearance by centre-back Bouba Aminou, one of six players from CAF Champions League contenders Coton Sport in the Cameroon starting line-up.
Thierry Kasereka came agonisingly close to scoring a second Congolese goal in the dying minutes with a shot that eluded goalkeeper Hugo Nyame only to rebound off the woodwork.
Cameroon had a chance to snatch a stoppage-time equaliser off a free-kick, but goalkeeper Herve Lomboto saved superbly from Ndzama Abouna.
Lomboto also denied strikers Jacques Haman and Emmanuel Mbongo and teenage midfielder Alexis Kada, who is joint leading scorer with six goals in the CAF Champions League this season.
A solitary-goal outcome was no surprise as goals have proved a precious commodity in the qualifying tournament with just 74 from 44 fixtures -- an average of 1.68 per game.
It was a deserved victory for the 'Leopards' over the 'Indomitable Lions' in a second round, first leg qualifier with a place in the finals to be hosted by South Africa at stake.
The central Africa region losers' play-off offers both countries a second chance to secure a place at the January 11-February 1 tournament after narrow first round defeats.
Cameroon lost on penalties to Gabon while DR Congo, winners of the maiden Nations Championship four years ago, were eliminated on the away-goal rule by Congo Brazzaville.
Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa have secured tournament places.
The winners of the Cameroon-DR Congo and Mozambique-Angola ties will complete the line-up for a competition restricted to home-based footballers.
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