Kenya beat Congo 2-1 at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani on Sunday in Nairobi to extinguish the latter's hopes of making it to next year's finals in Gabon.
The biggest beneficiary from the Kenya victory was Guinea Bissau, who qualified for the AFCON for the first time in their history after beating Zambia 3-2 in Bissau 24-hours earlier, which took their point haul to 10.
Congo who prior to the match was on six points needed a win or a draw to take Group E ticket search to the wire on the final day, but Kenya who were the only winless team in the group were in no mood to do any favours.
The hosts bounced back from a goal down to win 2-1 with goals in either half from Lierse SC midfielder Ayub Timbe and Eric Johannah.
"I am very disappointed today because we didn't play well at all. Kenya who had nothing to lose in this match were hungrier and determined to win than us. We had one local based player in the team and I can say he was our best player and it is something I don't understand when we have foreign based players. We were too slow and Kenya deserved to win," Congo coach Pierre Lechantre said after the match.
The Harambee Stars started the match better and seemed more motivated with Victor Wanyama and debutant Ismail Gonzalez working hard in midfield to ensure the maintained possession and sprayed the balls well upfront.
However, Kenya fell behind in the 18th minute from the penalty spot after the referee adjudged Gonzalez to have fouled danger-man Ferebory Dore inside the box as they tussled for a free-kick. Congo Skipper Prince Oniangue stepped up to send Kenya keeper Boniface Oluoch the wrong way and open the scores.
The lead however lasted only six minutes as Kenya raced back on level terms, Timbe sending home a belter from inside the box after being sent through by Francis Kahata.
The Congolese attack mode was pegged on cross balls and set pieces but Kenya managed to deal with them well despite few moments of jitters.
After drawing level, the Kenyans confidence soared and they attacked with more purpose. Wanyama attempted a shot from distance but Congo custodian Christofer Mafumbi was well placed to pick the effort in the 34th minute.
A minute later, Timbe should have completed his brace but Mafumbi produced a fine save to thwart the winger's effort after Johannah played through an intelligent through pass after dribbling from 40 yards out.
Congo as well came inches close to a second but were denied by the bar after Dore used his height well to connect to a Kelvin N'Dinga free-kick.
At the start of the second half, Okumbi pulled out Gonzalez for Anthony Akumu as he sought to strengthen the midfield.
Kenya pressed and sprayed passes very well around the field and they managed to get the winner in the 65th minute through Johannah who lofted the ball over the advancing Mafumbi after picking up a long pass from deep in the Kenyan half.
Congo threw everything at Kenya to look for at least a draw but the home side never relented as coach Stanley Okumbi went on to pick his first win as the Stars coach.
"I am very pleased with the result today. I was not under pressure; it is only that things had not been working well for us. Today we played with more purpose and got the result," he said.
His captain Wanyama added; "We were hungry for results because it had been long since we won and that motivation helped us."