Mali drew 1-1 with DR Congo in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group B clash on Monday night in Durban, South Africa, guaranteeing the Malians a ticket to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Goals from Dieumerci Mbokani for the country formerly known as Zaire, and Mamadou Samassa for the Eagles produced the stalemate.
A number these Afcon matches have been slow at the start, with the action peaking in the second half, and often only in the dying minutes of the encounters have goals been scored. This match was a completely different story, with DR Congo's Lomana LuaLua hitting the post in the first minute of the game, before Mali conceded a third minute penalty. Dieumerci Mbokani converted the spot kick, giving the Congolese the lead very early on.
The Eagles of Mali would soon respond to that strike, however, and in the 15th minute Adama Tamboura sent in a tight angle cross to a confident Mamadou Samassa, who equalised for his side.
The Congolese found themselves on the back foot at that stage, with Mali growing in confidence after their poor defensive start. Mali continued to push forward, but despite their hold on possession, they were only able to create a handful of decent chances, which were not converted.
In the 38th minute DR Congo wasted an opportunity from a free kick, with LuaLua curling his effort straight into the wall. The half ended with the score level at 1-1.
At the start of the second half Tresor Mputu came on for LuaLua, in an effort to inject life into the Congolese attack.
Patrice Carteron's Mali side struggled to impose their dominance in the early stages of the second half, with DR Congo looking the more dangerous side.
Both teams were aware that the winner would advance to the quarter-finals of the competition, but neither of the two squads seemed capable of outdoing the other, and in contrast to a frantic and entertaining first few minutes, the last section of the game was scrappy.
With 10 minutes to go it seemed as though captain Seydou Keita had found a winner for Mali, but his header fell just wide of the target. In the dying minutes DR Congo had a penalty appeal, but the referee waved play on.
The match ended in a 1-1 stalemate, while the other game in the group produced a 3-0 victory for Ghana over Niger.
Those results see Ghana top and Mali second in Group B, with the Black Stars set to play the Cape Verde, while the Eagles will clash with hosts South Africa, as Bafana Bafana topped Group A.