Minyahil Teshome completed his journey from villain to hero after firing Ethiopia into the play-offs for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
The 27-year-old struck a 61st-minute winner as Ethiopia came from a goal down against Central African Republic to win 2-1 and secure their place in Africa’s 10-team play-off round.
Teshome had been the player at the heart of the controversy that had threatened Ethiopia’s progress, after they were docked points for fielding the midfielder when he should have been suspended in June’s qualifier against Botswana.
Ethiopia had already celebrated their progress once, and could for a second time as they secured the three points they needed to hold off South Africa, who coasted past Botswana 4-1.
The Bafana Bafana’s result was deemed meaningless as Salahdin Ahmed (48) and Teshome (61) struck after Salif Keita had given the hosts a 23rd-minute lead.
Bernard Parker (84, 89) scored twice for South Africa after Kermit Erasmus (28) and Dean Furman (45) had fired the 2010 World Cup hosts into a 2-0 half-time lead. Jerome Ramatlhakwana scored Botswana’s only goal 17 minutes from the end.
Burkina Faso jumped above Congo in Group E following a 1-0 win against Gabon in Ouagadougou. Prejuce Nakoulma scored the goal to send Burkina Faso through on 54 minutes after Congo could only draw 2-2 away to Niger.
Congo twice battled back from behind, Fabrice Nguessi (66) and Ulrich Kapolongo (76) cancelling out goals from Mahamane Cisse (34) and Daouda Kamilou (7), but the winner the visitors needed never arrived.
Ivory Coast had already won Group C, and finished their campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Morocco. Youssef El Arabi put the visitors in front but an 83rd minute Didier Drogba penalty earned a point. In the same group, Gambia beat Tanzania 2-0 through two goals from Mustapha Jarju.
Ghana, Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast had already secured their place in the next stage.