Sadio Mane converted a penalty deep in added time to snatch a fortunate 1-0 win for Senegal over Zimbabwe in the Africa Cup of Nations Group B opener on Monday in Bafoussam.
Disaster struck the gallant underdogs when a shot hit the right arm of Kelvin Madzongwe and Mane sent goalkeeper Petros Mhari the wrong way with the resulting penalty on 97 minutes to settle a lacklustre affair.
While Senegal, one of the favourites to win a competition delayed twice by Covid-19, dominated possession, they rarely threatened to break down a well-organised Zimbabwe defence.
The Senegalese had earlier missed a host of chances during the game, the best fell to midfielder Gana Gueye shortly before half-time but the Paris St-Germain star could not control an easy pass from Mane with the goal beckoning.
Mane himself had been denied earlier in the half when shooting straight at impressive Zimbabwe goalkeeper Mhari after wriggling into space in the box.
Senegal lacked its captain Kalidou Koulibaly and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who are recovering in Cameroon after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Zimbabwe travelled to central Africa without a couple of their top players, Marvelous Nakamba from Aston Villa and fellow midfielder Marshall Munetsi from French Ligue 1 outfit Reims, due to injuries.
The opening 20 minutes were controlled by the Teranga Lions, who camped in the Zimbabwe half and passed the ball casually while their opponents did a lot of chasing at a sparsely populated Stade de Kouekong.
Senegal issued a declaration of their intentions within 45 seconds of the kick-off in 30 degrees Celsius heat when Bouna Sarr fired narrowly wide from just outside the box.
Sarr from German and European giants Bayern Munich went even closer midway through the opening half with a shot across the goal that was just off target.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first as Senegal dominated possession without seriously threatening to take the lead.
Mhari rescued Zimbabwe 16 minutes from time when he dived to cut off a cross destined for Mane at the far post.
Senegal survived a scare as full-time loomed with a Zimbabwe free-kick creating a half chance before the ball was grasped by goalkeeper Seny Dieng.