Cameroon took 81 minutes to score at home against minnows Guinea-Bissau on Saturday and ensure progress in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying competition.
France-based striker Benjamin Moukandjo punished a defensive mix-up before a small crowd to earn a 1-0 victory and repeat the scoreline of the first leg four months ago when Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting snatched a late winner.
A labored victory over a team ranked 31 places lower in Africa lifted the Indomitable Lions into the final elimination round in September and October, when places at the Cup of Nations in South Africa will be up for grabs.
However, the outcome did little to ease tension between the national squad and its supporters, with former star Roger Milla forced to appeal for calm last week amid reports of verbal abuse and threats against some of the Cameroonian squad.
Cameroon were the first country to be eliminated from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and they failed to make this year’s Cup of Nations after finishing a distant second behind Senegal in a mini-league.
Such results are proving difficult to accept for supporters used to much better with the six World Cup appearances of Cameroon a record for an African country, and they have lifted the Cup of Nations four times.
Retirement of stars and constant coaching changes have not helped and current handler Denis Lavagne from France has been under pressure almost since the day he succeeded Spaniard Javier Clemente late last year.
The one bright speck on the horizon is the imminent return of star striker and captain Samuel Eto’o, whose instigating the bonus-related boycott of a friendly in Algeria in November last year led to an eight-month ban.
Cameroon supporters chanted his name at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde as they watched the Lions dominate one of the weakest national teams in Africa, but squander endless chances.
Cape Verde Islands, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda also secured places in the second round, where they will be joined by the 16 teams that competed at the 2012 Cup of Nations which Zambia surprisingly won.
Uganda came alive in the second half at the Nelson Mandela Stadium outside Kampala to trounce Congo Brazzaville 4-0 and overturn a two-goal first leg defeat.
Andy Mwesigwa headed in a first-half corner and the Cranes tore the Congolese defense to shreds after halftime with Godfrey Walusimbi converting a penalty before Geoffrey Massa and Emmanuel Okwi also netted.
Joseph Kamwendo atoned for missing a spot kick by scoring the goal that sealed a 2-0 win for Malawi over Chad, who came to Blantyre one goal ahead on aggregate.
Wasteful Nigeria saw off Rwanda 2-0 in Calabar after a goal-less first encounter with Ikechukwu Uche and Ahmed Musa scoring while a solitary first-leg goal took Liberia through after forcing a 0-0 draw with Namibia in Windhoek.
Sierra Leone struck four goals in a 20-minute first-half blitz to defeat Sao Tome e Principe 4-2 in a Freetown match boycotted by the local media after the organizers insisted journalists pay to enter the stadium.
The Leone Stars advanced 5-4 on aggregate, while the Cape Verde Islands had a much easier passage, winning 3-1 at home to Madagascar after taking a four-goal lead back to Praia.