Tunisia left it late but grabbed a 1-0 win over north African rivals Algeria in a dire 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group D encounter at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on Tuesday night.
The match was expected to be a lively encounter between two sides who enjoy playing attacking football, but ended up being a bore-fest that lit up only in the dying minutes as Youssef Msakni found a winner for the Tunisians.
The opening half in particular was a poor spectacle, with chances at a premium, and fouls and misplaced passes breaking up the play. It lacked rhythm of any sort and had none of the "fizz" expected in a contest between these two north African giants.
The best moment came just past the half-hour mark as Islam Slimani headed onto the Tunisian crossbar from Sofiane Feghouli’s cross. It was the nearest, by some distance, that either side came to scoring.
Algerian midfielder Foued Kadir should have done much better when he found himself in space in the box, but couldn’t direct a shot on goal.
Tunisia’s best chance fell to Hamdi Harbaoui, but he shot straight at Algerian keeper Rais Mbolhi.
Djamel Mesbah fired wide from range for Algeria in the second period, as did Adlene Guedioura, his effort just inches over the crossbar.
It was a sign that the Algerians, who were dominating possession, were being reduced to shots from range, unable to get behind the Tunisian defence to create chances in the penalty area.
And at the other end Tunisia should have taken the lead. Oussama Darragi found Harbaoui in the box, but he fired wide when it seemed easier to score.
They finally did get a goal right at the death as Msakni netted a delightful curling effort from outside the box that lodged in the top corner.
It was a rare moment of brilliance in what was otherwise a poor match, and gives the less fancied Tunisians a real chance of making the quarter-finals.
Algeria will hope for much better when they take on Togo in their next match at the same venue on Saturday, while Tunisia face the daunting task of a meeting with group leaders Cote d’Ivoire.