Nelspruit — Zambia kept alive the defence of their African Nations Cup title by netting a late penalty against Nigeria on Friday to force a 1-1 draw in the battle of the Group C heavyweights.
Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, who had to face a penalty from Nigeria in the first half, stepped up calmly to slot home the ball with just five minutes left.
It came as a relief to Zambia, who let their first-half dominance slip against Nigeria and who conceded a goal after 57 minutes to Emmanuel Emenike.
Nigeria had earlier missed a penalty when John Obi Mikel hit his 26th-minute effort wide. The penalty came after a clumsy challenge from Davies Nkausu on Ahmed Musa inside the box and there was little discussion about the validity of the award by the Egyptian referee.
But there was much contention over the late spot kick handed to the Zambians when Ogenzi Onazi tugged at Emmanuel Mayuka on the edge of the Nigeria area. It seemed an innocuous challenge and led to heated protest from the disappointed Super Eagles, who for a second successive match let slip a lead late in the match.
Both teams now effectively need to win their last games on Tuesday to go through to the quarter-finals.
Obi Mikel made up for his miss by setting up the opening goal in the 57th minute when he stripped Zambia's Chisamba Lungu of possession and passed for Emenike to score. It was a second goal in as many games for the Russian-based striker, fast emerging as a potential new Rashidi Yekini.
Emenike might have had a second soon after as he sought to bulldoze his way to the Zambia goal.
The defending champions looked far the brighter side in the first half.
But the break revived Nigeria and the goal 12 minutes into the second half added to their confidence.
Zambia made three changes to try and fight back but will leave somewhat relieved at their turn of good fortune.