Egypt moved within touching distance of a place at next year's African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2010 when a Ramadan Sobhi goal in the second half gave them a valuable 1-0 win over main challengers Nigeria at Alexandria's Borg El-Arab Stadium on Tuesday.
The Ahly teenager, who came on as a second half substitute to set up Mohamed Salah for a precious goal that salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Nigeria on Friday, provided the highlight of the game when his low shot deflected off a defender and went beneath the keeper five minutes past the hour mark.
The goal sparked wild celebrations at the army-owned stadium, with Egypt basking in a huge backing from more than 40,000 fans after authorities had temporarily lifted a long-standing crowd ban.
Argentinean coach Hector Cuper will be credited with delivering what three of his predecessors failed to achieve, with Egypt failing to qualify for three successive Nations Cups under Hassan Shehata, American Bob Bradley and Shawki Gharib respectively.
The record winners won the last of their seven titles in 2010 in Angola, which completed a hat-trick of unprecedented straight triumphs, but have suffered the adverse effects of incessant political turmoil in the following years.
Egypt are almost certain to make it to next year's finals in Gabon as they top their group with seven points, five clear of Nigeria who now lost any hopes of qualifying due to the sudden withdrawal of bottom side Chad.
Nigeria's only remaining match is against Tanzania, who have a solitary point.
Tanzania's slim hopes lie in beating Egypt by more than a three-goal margin to have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, given that they suffered an opening 3-0 defeat by the Pharaohs in June last year, and overcoming Nigeria in their final game.
Egypt made two changes to the side that held Nigeria to a draw in Kaduna, with Ismaily's Marwan Mohsem playing as a lone striker instead of Sporting Braga's Ahmed 'Kouka' Hassan and Sobhi playing on the left wing instead of Anderlecht's on-loan midfielder Mahmoud Trezeguet.
Egypt made a lively start that saw them create two early chances, with central defender Ahmed Hegazy grazing the outside of the post with a free header and playmaker Abdallah El-Said going close with a shot from the edge of the area following a pull-back from Sobhi.
Nigeria gained more possession afterwards but were largely timid, with a tight Egypt's defence marshaled by central pair Ahmed Hegazy and Rami Rabia comfortable with any long balls and pacy right-back Omar Gaber leaving little room for Victor Moses to operate.
The tempo was slow until the latter stages of the first half when a couple of chances breathed life into a lethargic affair.
Defensive midfielder Ibrahim Salah had a shot from the edge of the area smothered by stand-in keeper Daniel Akpeyi, who deputized for the ill Carl Ikeme, before the Warri Wolves shot-stopper was called into action again to superbly thwart a glancing header from Rabia following a right-wing cross from Mohamed Salah.
Egypt remained in control after the break despite the scarcity of genuine chances and managed to break the deadlock on 65 minutes.
A poor defensive clearance fell to Sobhi, with the 18-year-old sending a low shot in a crowded area that took a wicked deflection to send the home fans into raptures.
Nigeria piled on pressure in the dying minutes and their only real chance in the game saw a powerful low shot from Moses denied by the post six minutes from time.
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