Title favourites Senegal opened their Cup of Nations campaign with a last ditch victory 1-0 against Zimbabwe in Bafoussam.
Skipper Sadio Mané thrashed in a penalty in the seventh minute of second-half stoppage time after Kelvin Madzongue handled while throwing himself into the path of a shot at goal.
Referee Mario Escobar pointed to the spot and after consulting with the video assistants confirmed his decision.
After Mané had saved his side’s blushes in extremis, several Zimbabwe players slumped to the ground as Mané’s teammates erupted with joy. Their relief was palpable.
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye was perhaps guilty of the worst miss seven minutes before half-time.
Mané rolled a ball across the penalty area but with only the Zimbabwe goalkeeper Petros Mhari to beat, a poor first touch allowed him to smother the ball and keep the game goalless.
Of the two teams leaving the field at the pause, Zimbabwe – 100 places below their opponents in the Fifa world rankings – would have been the happier.
And the initial exchanges in the second half mirrored the first. Senegalese domination but no penetration.
And unlike Burkina Faso in the opening match on Sunday between Cameroon and Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe appeared to be in no mood to self-destruct with robust challenges in the penalty area.
It was the determination to put their bodies in the line of fire that was ultimately their undoing against a side that had lost several key players – including defender Kalidou Koulibaly and first choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy due to the coronavirus.
“It was not an easy game to play with the sun and the heat,” said Mané.
“We haven’t played many warm-up games either. It was the first match of the competition and they’re always difficult. In the end we won and that’s the most important thing.”