The Mena of Niger stayed on course for a first-ever Nations Cup finals appearance when they came from behind to beat Sierra Leone 3-1 in a qualifying match in Niamey on Sunday.
They thus maintained second position in Group G with six points from three matches, a point behind group leaders South Africa, who a day earlier had inflicted more damage on the chances of defending champions Egypt reaching the tournament finals early next year.
Sierra Leone are third in the standings with two points, while Egypt, record seven-time winners of the tournament, are surprisingly bottom of this section and now in real danger of a shock elimination from the competition.
Alhassan Bangura gave the visiting Leone Stars a 23rd minute lead, before hosts Niger bounced back to win 3-1 at the Seyni Kountche Stadium.
It was their second win of the series as they also handed Egypt their first defeat in this qualifying tournament.
The outcome of the rematch between Sierra Leone and Niger in Freetown in June would most likely give a clearer picture of the Mena’s chances of making their way to a historic Nations Cup finals debut.