Nigeria ignored a soccer fundamental — always play to the whistle — and it cost them dearly in a 1-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying draw with Egypt on Friday.
The Super Eagles deserved to be more than one goal ahead at an overcrowded Ahmadu Bello Stadium as the high-profile Group G clash drifted into stoppage-time.
However, a pass from substitute Ramadan Sobhy caught the defense napping and as they stood appealing for offside, Mohamed Salah equalized.
Oghenekaro Etebo, a star when Nigeria won the U23 Africa Cup of Nations three months ago, pounced on a rebound off the woodwork to break the stalemate on the hour.
Victor Moses thought he had scored a second six minutes from time after rounding goalkeeper Ahmed Al Shenawy and pushing the ball toward an unguarded goal.
However, Hamada Tolba darted back to make a dramatic clearance under pressure just before the ball crossed the line.
Salvaging a point kept record seven-times African champions Egypt two points ahead of three-times winners Nigeria halfway through the six-round qualifying schedule.
Egypt have seven points, Nigeria five, Tanzania four and Chad none in the so-called “group of death.”
The teams clash again on Tuesday and a win for the Pharaohs would all but seal a slot at the tournament in Gabon next year.
The 13 group winners are guaranteed places at the biennial African soccer showpiece, while the best two runners-up also qualify.
Defending champions Ivory Coast went to the top of Group I with a labored 1-0 win over second-placed Sudan via an opening-half goal from Gervinho.
Ivory Coast, who last year lifted the trophy a second time after a decade of underachievement, missed injured captain Yaya Toure.
Ivory Coast have four points, Sudan three and Sierra Leone one in the only three-team mini-league.
Swaziland, one of 16 African nations never to qualify for the tournament, stayed top of Group L on goals scored, despite being held 1-1 at home by second-placed Zimbabwe.
The hosts made a dream start as Felix Badenhorst nodded home a cross just 90 seconds after the kick-off at Somhlolo Stadium.
Zimbabwe recovered to dominate the first half, but their equalizer a minute before halftime came gift-wrapped from Swaziland, with Njabulo Ndlovu conceding an own-goal.
Guinea and Malawi failed to take advantage of the Swaziland stalemate by drawing 0-0.
Swaziland and Zimbabwe have five points each, while Malawi and top seeds Guinea have two apiece.
Mauritania joined Cameroon at the top of Group M after snatching a 2-1 victory over Gambia through a stoppage-time goal from Bessam.
He put the hosts ahead during the opening half and Mustapha Carayol, from English second-tier club Leeds United, leveled on the hour.
Cameroon and Mauritania have six points each, while Gambia and South Africa have one each.
Youssef Msakni nodded in just after halftime to give Tunisia a 1-0 win over Togo and top place in Group A on goal-difference.
Tunisia, Togo and Liberia all have six points, while Djibouti have lost their three matches.
The biggest win came in the final match, with winger Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani bagging braces as Algeria crushed Ethiopia 7-1, despite Yacine Brahimi failing to convert a penalty.
Algeria have a maximum nine points in Group J, Ethiopia four, Seychelles one and Lesotho none.
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