Ivory Coast came from behind twice to defeat Senegal 4-2 Saturday in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier that lived up to its match-of-the-day billing.
Spectacular goals from Dame Ndoye and Papiss Cisse gave Senegal the lead in each half only for Salomon Kalou and Gervinho to snatch equalisers before Didier Drogba and Max Gradel scored in the final 10 minutes of a high-tempo thriller.
The teams meet again in Dakar during October and the aggregate winners of the second round fixture advance to the 16-nation tournament in South Africa next January and February.
Ndoye put the visitors ahead with a volley that flew past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry and Kalou punished slack marking to poke the ball into the far corner from close range just before half-time.
A looping Cisse header from outside the box put the Senegalese back in the lead, but it lasted only five minutes before Gervinho burst through the middle and hammered the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Jacques Faty pushed Gervinho inside the area with 10 minutes left and veteran skipper Drogba converted the penalty before Gradel gave the Ivorians a two-goal cushion.
Ivory Coast entered the last four Cup of Nations tournaments as favourites, but the closest they came to glory was finishing runners-up twice, and many consider 2013 represents the last chance for Drogba and other 30-plus stars.
A Cameroon side missing stay-away star Samuel Eto'o are in danger of missing a second successive Cup of Nations after losing 2-0 away to the Cape Verde Islands.
Eto'o spurned a call-up after completing an eight-month ban from the national association for instigating the boycott of a friendly and his predatory instincts were missed as Ricardo and Djaniny scored for the Blue Sharks.
Zambia, who defeated Ivory Coast on penalties after a goalless 2012 final, failed to turn a glut of possession into goals and had to settle for a 1-0 home victory over Uganda.
Captain and striker Christopher Katongo punished sloppy defending midway through the first half to tap in a deep Davies Nkausu throw before a capacity 40,000 crowd in Ndola.
Katongo was a constant threat to Uganda, netting again in the opening half only to have his effort disallowed and being foiled by the woodwork after the break.
Uganda, seeking a place at the Cup of Nations for the first time since finishing second behind 1978 hosts Ghana, spent most of the match on the back foot and were lucky to finish only one goal behind.
Ghana scored early in each half to triumph 2-0 against Malawi in Accra with Christian Atsu putting the Black Stars ahead and Anthony Annan also on target against rivals reduced to 10 men after James Sangala was cautioned twice.
Vianney Mabide netted during the opening half to earn surprise last-30 qualifiers Central African Republic a 1-0 home victory over Burkina Faso in Bangui.
The central Africans reached the final elimination round by toppling record seven-time Cup of Nations champions Egypt in one of the biggest shocks since qualifying was introduced 45 years ago.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor crowned his promotion to captain of Togo by equalising in a 1-1 draw against Gabon after veteran Daniel Cousin had put the home team ahead.