Ghana, Mali and Zambia put their noses in front with victories away from home during the second round first leg matches of the Orange CAN U-20 Championship Senegal 2015 on Saturday.
The trio thus stands in a good stead to reach the final round ahead of the second leg in a fortnight.
Ghana's Black Satellites humbled the Shooting Stars of Sierra Leone 2-0 in Freetown to remain on course for a fourth successive appearance at the biennial championship since 2009. Dennis Tetteh and Prosper Kassim scored in each half to secure victory.
In Ouagadougou, a Saliou Guindo hat-trick silenced and killed off the hopes of the Les Etalons Juniors of Burkina Faso. Guindo, who stars for Malian second-tier side, Jeanne d'Arc de Bamako broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. The midfielder doubled the lead on 72 minutes before sealing his third eight minutes from time.
Elsewhere in Maputo, the Young Chipolopolo of Zambia proved too strong for their Mozambican hosts. Patrick Ngoma and captain Lubambo Musonda were on target in each half to ensure victory.
At the Kamuzui Banda Stadium in Blantyre, the Malawian Junior Flames failed to shine at home, settling for a 1-1 draw with DR Congo. The visitors went up on 69 minutes through Christy Manzinga before Suweidi Limbani grabbed a face-saving equalizer on 77 minutes.
The remaining first leg matches of the second round will be cleared on Sunday, 11 May 2014.
The second leg will take place on the weekend of 23-25 May 2014 with the winners advancing to the ultimate round of the qualifying series.
The final tournament will take place from 8-22 March 2015 in Senegal with the semi-finalists qualifying to represent Africa at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.