African champions Nigeria snatched a dramatic draw and there were vital wins for Burkina Faso, Cameroon and South Africa on Saturday in World Cup qualifiers.
Nnamdi Oduamadi, who was not part of the 2013 Cup of Nations-winning squad last month, equalized three minutes into stoppage-time after 17-year-old Francis Kahata had given Kenya a shock first-half lead in Calabar.
Burkina Faso, runners-up to Nigeria in South Africa after a giant-killing run that far exceeded expectations, trounced Niger 4-0 at home in a must-win match, although the impact was diluted because group leaders Congo Brazzaville also won.
Record four-time African Footballer of the Year Samuel Eto’o scored in each half as fallen giants Cameroon used home advantage to win 2-1 against Emmanuel Adebayor-less Togo and take the Group I lead.
Thabo Matlaba and Bernard Parker were on target as wasteful South Africa won 2-0 in Cape Town over Central African Republic, whose capital, Bangui, fell this weekend to rebels opposing Central African President Francois Bozize.
There were also victories for Ivory Coast, playing without dropped icon Didier Drogba, Malawi and Tunisia, while 2013 Cup of Nations flops Angola fought back to hold Senegal.
Kenya captain Victor Wanyama, from Scottish champions Celtic, predicted his side would stun Nigeria, and they came agonizingly close after Kahata scored from a free-kick.
However, the Super Eagles salvaged a draw three minutes into additional time, when the Harambee Stars failed to clear and Oduamadi earned his country a point that left them ahead of Malawi in Group F on goals scored.
Malawi upset Namibia 1-0 in Windhoek through a mid-second half goal from Gabadin Mhango to give caretaker coach Edington Ng’onamo a win in his first competitive outing.
Ivory Coast, whose fifth consecutive failure to justify favoritism at a Cup of Nations cost Drogba his place, outplayed Gambia 3-0 in Abidjan through goals from Wilfried Bony, Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou.
Tunisia moved five points clear of Sierra Leone in Group B after winning the top-of-the-table clash 2-1 in Rades with Oussama Darragi and Wahbi Khazri on target before Alhassan Kamara reduced arrears.
Giant Queens Park Rangers centerback Christopher Samba was the Congo match-winner against Gabon in Pointe Noire, snatching the only goal on 67 minutes to give the Red Devils a six-point Group E advantage.
Senegal, playing a first competitive game under French coach Alain Giresse, took a first half lead through Moussa Sow in Conakry, only for Amaro Costa to equalize for Angola 15 minutes from time.
The fixture was moved to the Guinea capital because of a one-year ban on the national stadium in Dakar after crowd trouble forced a Cup of Nations qualifier against Ivory Coast to be abandoned in October last year.
Jonathan Pitropia, voted player of the tournament at the 2013 Africa Cup, gave Burkina Faso a third-minute lead, Aristide Bance hit the second before halftime and Charles Kabore and Prejuce Nakoulma added late goals.
Another nine qualifiers were scheduled for yesterday and a further two fixtures tomorrow will bring the mini-league competition to the halfway stage, with the 10 group winners advancing to the knockout final phase.