Didier Drogba scored as Ivory Coast overcame Senegal 3-1 in Abidjan on Saturday to boost their hopes of a third consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance.
The 35-year-old striker converted a penalty after five minutes at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Lamine Sane conceded an own-goal and Salomon Kalou netted soon after halftime, but Papiss Cisse pulled a goal back six minutes into stoppage-time after the ball slipped from the grasp of goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Aristide Bance converted a disputed late penalty to give Burkina Faso a 3-2 win over Algeria in Ouagadougou in another Africa zone playoff first leg.
Crowd violence when Senegal hosted Ivory Coast last year in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier led to a one-year ban on matches in Dakar. So on top of trying to wipe out a two-goal deficit, Senegal must play the Nov. 16 second leg in Casablanca, Morocco.
Drogba put Ivory Coast ahead after Cheikhou Kouyate fouled Gervinho, whose cross nine minutes later was turned into his own net by Sane.
AS Roma wide man Gervinho was also involved in the third goal, sending Kalou through the middle to beat Bouna Coundoul at his near post.
Bance snatched the winner after Essaid Belkalem appeared to have his arms behind his body when the ball struck him four minutes from time, but the assistant referee insisted it was hand-ball and Bance made up for having an earlier spot-kick saved.
The home team suffered a blow when defender Bakary Kone was forced off with a thigh injury on seven minutes and Steeve Yago came off the bench. Algeria settled quicker and mounted numerous attacks without seriously threatening to score.
Burkina Faso seemed nervous, but as the opening half passed the half-hour mark, Jonathan Pitroipa began to stamp his authority on a game needing a lift.
He won a penalty as the first half drew to a close when Belkalem from English second-tier club Watford floored him with a wild tackle, but Adi Mbolhi dived left to make a two-handed save.
However, Burkina Faso did take the lead two minutes into first-half stoppage-time when Pitroipa met a Jean-Noel Lingani cross and his header landed in the far corner.
Algeria began the second half strongly and were level on 50 minutes when Sofiane Feghouli fired past Daouda Diakite.
The cagey early play had given way to more adventurous soccer from both teams and Burkina Faso and Algeria scored again within five minutes.
Djakaridja Kone put the Stallions ahead by powering forward and firing wide of Mbolhi into the corner, but a Carl Medjani header off a corner gave Diakite no chance and it remained level until Bance atoned for his earlier miss.