Nigeria failed on Wednesday to reach the final round of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Africa after a 1-1 draw in Namibia.
The African champions needed a win in Windhoek to take an unassailable four-point Group F lead with one game to spare.
However, the Super Eagles had to settle for a point when Godfrey Oboabona equalized seven minutes from time at the Sam Nujoma Stadium.
Deon Hotto Kavendji had put the Brave Warriors ahead on 77 minutes as they threatened to avenge a 1-0 loss in Calabar in June last year.
A draw was a satisfactory result for Namibia, ranked 30 places below Nigeria in Africa by FIFA, given their chaotic build-up to the qualifier.
Swede Roger Palmgren quit as coach on Monday after unspecified death threats, leaving assistants Ricardo Mannetti and Ronnie Kanolelo 48 hours to prepare.
Nigeria have nine points after five rounds, Malawi seven, Namibia five and winless Kenya prop up the table with just three points.
So the September clash of Nigeria and Malawi becomes a group decider, with the Eagles needing a draw and the Flames a win to finish on top.
Nigeria now switch attention to the Confederations Cup in Brazil — they face Tahiti on Monday in Group B, followed by Uruguay and world champions Spain.
Malawi were held 2-2 by Kenya in Blantyre earlier on Wednesday — a result which opened the door for Nigeria to seal first place.
The Flames led twice at Kamuzu Stadium, only for the Harambee Stars to get a last-minute reprieve when Chimango Kayira scored an own-goal.
Striker Robin Ngalande put the home team ahead a minute into the second half on an artificial pitch and midfielder Jamal Mohamed leveled soon after.
A goal from veteran midfielder Robert Ng’ambi 10 minutes before time offered Malawi hope of a rare home win, only for substitute Kayira to blunder.
The sole Malawian victory in five mini-league qualifiers was away to Namibia three months ago, with all three home games drawn.