A halftime rocket from coach Hugo Broos lifted Cameroon to a vital 2-1 victory over minnows Guinea-Bissau and top spot in their African Nations Cup Group A on Wednesday night.
A brilliant solo goal from former Portugal Under-20 international Piqueti had Guinea-Bissau in front early on and they looked good value for their lead at halftime.
But Cameroon came out much stronger in the second period and two strikes from just outside the box by Sebastien Siani and Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui sparked a comeback.
"Our first-half performance was not worthy of Indomitable Lions, it was more like tame lions," Broos said. "I have never seen such a weak team. There was nothing, no aggression, no fight.
"But I think we deserved to win the game on the basis of our second half. We came here to get through the group."
It is the second match in a row in which the Indomitable Lions have played in fits and starts, unable to fully find their rhythm.
They will need to correct that going into the knockout stages, if they do qualify, and the level of the opposition goes up another level.
They now face hosts Gabon in their final pool match on Sunday, knowing that a point will be enough to see them advance to the next stage.
Even a defeat will be good enough if Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau draw their final match, or if the latter are victorious.
The only scenario that will see Cameroon now eliminated is if they lose to Gabon and Burkina Faso beat Guinea-Bissau.
The west African minnows showed plenty of character in their defeat but also some naivety in the way they defended, failing to press the Cameroonians and giving them too much space in and around their box.
Although it is not over for them yet, the odds are stacked against them.
"It's not over, we still feel we can do something in the last game," said midfielder Toni Silva said.
Their coach, Baciro Cande, had tears streaming down his face during the anthems on Wednesday night. “I am proud of my players despite the loss,” he said. “We came into the match as underdogs playing with a side that had huge expectations and are regulars in the tournament.
“We started the game very well and made them to back track but I think fatigue took a toll on the players and they lost concentration.
“It’s been a nice journey and I personally felt we had very good chances as the game proceeded but Cameroon came back roaring and we failed to contain their counter-attacks, however we can only take great lessons from the match which was exciting and entertaining from start to end.”