JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 25 – Ethiopia snatched a dramatic 1-0 home victory over Botswana on Sunday to keep alive hopes of a first appearance at the World Cup in Brazil next year.
Substitute Getaneh Kebede, who replaced fellow-striker Adane Girma for the second half in Addis Ababa, snatched the lone goal two minutes from time in the high-altitude east African city.
Ethiopia returned to the top of Group A with seven points, two more than overnight leaders South Africa, who overcame Central African Republic 2-0 in Cape Town thanks to goals from Thabo Matlaba and Bernard Parker.
Tanzania scored three second-half goals to thrash four-time World Cup qualifiers Morocco 3-1 in Dar es Salaam and climb to within a point of Group C pacesetters Ivory Coast.
Thomas Ulimwengu broke the deadlock a minute after half-time and there was a brace for Mbwana Samata before Youssef El Arabi reduced the arrears four minutes into stoppage time.
This humiliating loss, coupled with draws against Gambia and Ivory Coast, means Morocco are all but out of the running for Brazil, and the future of recently appointed coach Rachid Taoussi must be in doubt.
Litsebe Marabe levelled a minute from time to give minnows Lesotho a 1-1 draw with 10-man Zambia in Maseru after Collins Mbesuma opened the scoring following the red carding of goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene for a professional foul.
The failure to collect maximum points was a bitter blow for Zambia, who stay top of Group D, but Ghana closed the gap to just one point by hammering Sudan 4-0 in Kumasi.
Asamoah Gyan, joint 2013 Cup of Nations leading scorer Mubarak Wakaso, Abdul Majeed Waris and Emmanuel Agyemang Badu were on target for the Black Stars, who are chasing a third consecutive World Cup appearance.
Mali, third behind Nigeria and Burkina Faso at the recent Cup of Nations in South Africa, fought back to overcome Rwanda 2-1 in Kigali and rise two places to the Group H summit.
Meddy Kagere scored after 37 minutes to raise hopes of a first qualifying win for the Rwandan Wasps after a heavy away loss to Algeria and a last-gasp home draw with Benin.
But Mali scored twice within six minutes early in the second half through Mahamadou Samassa and Abdou Traore to take a two-point lead over Benin with twice World Cup qualifiers Algeria a point further back.
Liberia moved from the bottom of Group J to second place, one point behind Senegal, after Patrick Wleh and captain Anthony Laffor scored to secure a 2-0 victory over Uganda in Paynesville.
Former giants Cameroon gained most from a 0-0 stalemate between Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya in Kinshasa as it kept the Indomitable Lions top of Group I, one point ahead of the Mediterranean Knights.
Cape Verde, who reached the 2013 Cup of Nations quarter-finals as debutants, equalised three times before losing a Group B thriller 4-3 to Equatorial Guinea in Malabo with Emilio Nsue scoring a hat-trick for the victors.
Mozambique and Guinea drew 0-0 in a dour Group G clash in Maputo, leaving leaders Egypt with a chance to open a five-point gap should they beat generally poor travellers Zimbabwe in Alexandria on Tuesday.