Morocco beat holders Tunisia 1-0 in CHAN qualifier
Morocco shocked title-holders Tunisia and Nigeria overpowered Ivory Coast in 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers.
A brace from star midfielder Sunday Mba helped Nigeria trounce nine-man Ivory Coast 4-1 in Kaduna and virtually seal a place in the finals for the first time.
Morocco are equally well-placed to compete in South Africa next January after a 1-0 win away to Tunisia via a late Abdessamad Mbarki goal.
Mali, Senegal and Burkina Faso built leads at home in other matches while a FIFA ban forced Cameroon to cancel their fixture against Gabon.
Nigeria ‘s Super Eagles are strongly positioned to progress in a competition restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth. Coach Stephen Keshi took eight local stars to the Confederations Cup in Brazil last month and all were in the squad to face the Ivorians.
Although a home victory was expected for Nigeria, Ivory Coast did not help themselves by having Roger Assale and Baresi Gloudeaou sent off in the second half. Nigeria were already 3-1 ahead at that point, and Ifeanyi Benjamin added just one more goal to the score-line.
Star midfielder Sunday Mba had already punished Ivory Coast by scoring in each half and Gambo Mohammed was the other Nigerian marksman.
Mba also scored the winner when Nigeria eliminated pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast this year en route to winning the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Tiecoura Koulibaly was on target for the visitors just before the break to leave The Elephants trailing 2-1 at half-time.
Elsewhere, two second-half red cards to Moroccans Mohamed Aberhoune and Salaheddine Essaidi could not prevent Tunisia losing in the Mediterranean resort of Sousse. Seeking a first appearance at the finals, Morocco snatched victory in the final minute when Mbarki finished off a swift counterattack.
While most second legs are scheduled for the end of July, the north African rivals meet again next weekend in coastal city Tangier.
Mali came from behind to overcome Guinea 3-1 in Bamako through goals from Moussa Kone, Cheick Doumbia and Drissa Traore. Guinea , who squeezed past Sierra Leone on away goals in the preliminary round, went ahead on eight minutes through Sambegou Bangoura.
Yannick Gomis scored nine minutes after half-time to give Senegal a 1-0 victory over minnows Mauritania in Dakar. The Mauritanians beat Liberia home and away to reach the first round and are trying to reach the finals of a CAF competition for the first time.
A solitary goal also settled the match between Burkina Faso and Nigerin Ouagadougou with substitute Issouf Kabore scoring for the home side, and Burundi drew 1-1 with Sudan in Bujumbura. Tambwe Amissi put Burundi ahead with Salah Ibrahim equalising for Sudan from the penalty spot.
Fifa banned Cameroon over state meddling in the running of football, leading to the cancellation of their fixture with Gabon in Yaounde.
Hosts South Africa are automatic participants in the 2014 tournament and will be joined by 15 nations after region-based qualifiers.