JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Tunisia scored early and Nigeria late Sunday to ensure a thrilling 2010 World Cup Group B qualifying race in Africa will go down to the wire next month.
France-based striker Issam Jomaa struck in the first minute as Tunisia won 1-0 against Kenya in Rades while Victor Nsofor from Spanish club Malaga netted three minutes into stoppage time as Nigeria pipped Mozambique 1-0 in Abuja.
These results left the Carthage Eagles of Tunisia two points above the Super Eagles of Nigeria with the leaders after the November 14 final fixtures qualifying for the world tournament in South Africa.
Tunisia visit Mozambique and Nigeria travel to Kenya and while the two hosts have been out of the World Cup reckoning for some time, they are fighting to finish third and claim a place at the 2010 African Nations Cup in Angola.
All seemed lost for three-time World Cup qualifiers Nigeria as a dour tussle with well-organised and slick Mozambique drifted into additional time at a far-from-full 60,000-seat National Stadium.
But the Mambas (Snakes) resistance finally cracked after 93 minutes when a parry by goalkeeper Joao Kapango was crossed into the goalmouth and unmarked 22-year-old Nsofor nodded in.
Had Nigeria drawn they would have failed to reach a second consecutive World Cup after a shock second-place finish behind Angola in the 2006 qualifying tournament for Germany.
Both teams were foiled by the woodwork in a cagey encounter Nigeria dominated territorially only to be let down by a blunt strike force and spectacular Kapango saves.
Tunisia, who came from behind twice to force a draw in Nigeria last month, made the perfect start with unmarked Jomaa heading past goalkeeper Willis Ochieng just 60 seconds into the first half.
But the North African team seeking a record-equalling fourth consecutive World Cup appearance by an African team, could not build on the early advantage and must win in Maputo to be certain of qualifying.
Algeria came from behind to defeat Rwanda 3-1 in Blida and regain a three-point advantage over African champions Egypt, who will host a top-of-the-table Group C clash next month.
Mafisango Mutesa stunned the Desert Foxes with an early goal, Abdelkader Ghezzal levelled soon after, Nadir Belhadj put Algeria ahead in first-half stoppage time and Karim Ziani converted a late penalty.
Ghana, who last month became the first African country to qualify for the 2010 finals after hosts South Africa, surrendered the last 100 percent record in the final round when falling 1-0 against Benin in Cotonou.
The Benin 'Squirrels' were impressively led by striker Razack Omotoyossi and dominated without reward until France-based striker Mohamed Aoudou scored two minutes into stoppage time.
There was also a late winner in the other Group D fixture with 2008 African Footballer of the Year Frederic Kanoute scoring one minute from full-time to earn dominant Mali a 1-0 victory over Sudan in Bamako.
The leading scorer in the qualifying competitions, Qatar-based Moumouni Dagano, raised his tally to 11 with the first goal as Burkina Faso ended a two-match Group E losing streak courtesy of a 2-1 win over Guinea in Accra.
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