A lapse in concentration on 73 minutes cost Harambee Stars dearly as the visitors lost 1-0 to hosts Uganda Cranes, in a thrilling CECAFA Group A match played at the Namboole Stadium in Kampala on Saturday.
Kenya, managed by Under 23 coach James Nandwa, had until then almost matched the tournament's defending champions in all departments, and even been unlucky not to go ahead after missing three clear cut chances.
Uganda - who are the record winners of this competition - started the aggressive of the two teams in a cagey opening quarter of an hour that attracted a capacity crowd including Kenyan Sports Minister Ababu Namwamba.
Former South African-based forward Brian Omony curved out the opening chance of the game for Bobby Williamson's side on ten minutes but his goal bound shot was expertly blocked by Tusker defender Joackins Atudo.
Yanga striker Emmanuel Okwi then followed up the attacking furore for the hosts with a wide range shot that blasted over the bar.
Kenya responded immediately with pint-sized forward Rama Salim failing to control a through ball with only Ugandan custodian Abbey Dhaira to beat.
The visitors Vice-Captain Bernard Mang'oli was then cautioned midway through the first half for a high - boot tackle on Cranes captain Hassan Waswa.
Stars keeper Duncan Ochieng' then saved a fierce free-kick from Okwi as Uganda looked to take a lead into the breather.
Kenya's best chance of the first half fell to Humphrey Mieno three minutes to the halftime, however the lanky midfielder went down with almost an empty net at his mercy easily after going past Dhaira.
The second half was delayed for ten minutes after the floodlight at the 45,000 seater venue located just outside Kampala's CBD went off following a power surge.
Kenya then upped the ante in the second period and Mieno should have done better after Rama Salim stole the ball from a stranded Cranes back-line and threaded a through ball to the lanky Sofapaka attacking midfielder, who however, blasted wide.
The introduction of Paul Were for Clifton Miheso added punch upfront to Kenya's attacking force and the AFC Leopards forward first opportunity resulted into a clear cut chance that Salim failed to convert.
However, Cranes keeper Dhaira was injured in the melee and had to be taken off and replaced by Hamdza Muwonge. Then Uganda scored.
A substitution by the Kenyan technical bench saw Kevin Omondi come in for the booked Man'goli, however Cranes defender Dennis Guma capitalized on the standoff to whip in a quickly taken free-kick that was headed in by Geoffrey 'Baba' Kizito for the all important goal.
Nandwa then brought on Enock Agwanda for the tiring Anthony 'Muki' Kimani and the Sony Sugar forward caused problems with two long throw ins, one that was almost converted by Were and the other cleared off the line, as the hosts held out for a morale boosting win to go joint top of Group A alongside Ethiopia who had beaten newcomers South Sudan earlier in the day.