Equatorial Guinea have advanced into the quarter-final stage of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Mali 6-5 on penalties on Wednesday.
Falaye Sacko missed the crucial effort that handed the National Thunder victory after a goalless affair at the end of extra-time in Limbe.
The result came as a shock for Mohamed Magassouba's side who started the encounter brightly, dominated the ball possession but failed to take their chances.
They had their first chance for a goal in the 33rd minute through Amadou Haidara but he failed to take advantage of it in the box.
Mali thought they had won a penalty after a challenge between Josete Miranda and Moussa Doumbia saw the latter go down in the box and referee Bakary Papa Gassama initially pointed to the spot.
However, to the relief of the National Thunder, referee Gassam overturned the decision and awarded a free-kick in their favour after consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) which showed no real contact.
The Eagles dominated the first half but they lacked that goalscoring touch while Equatorial came with an aggressive approach which resulted in nine fouls against them and three yellow cards before the interval.
Shortly after his introduction in the 70th minute, Southampton's Moussa Djenepo came close to breaking the deadlock for the Eagles after playing a one-two pass, he fired a shot from the edge of the penalty area but it was deflected and narrowly went off target.
After struggling for chances in the second 45 minutes, Juan Micha's men suddenly switched things up towards the end of regular time with consecutive fast-breaks but the Malian defence stood firm to block the threats.
Extra-time started with Basilio Ndong forcing goalkeeper Mounkoro to parry his long-range effort for a corner-kick which looked to be the clearest attempt on goal.
The extra 30 minutes turned out to be a cagey affair with Mali who found it difficult to penetrate despite controlling possession and commanding the midfield.
In the penalty shoot-out, Equatorial Guinea started first but second-half substitute Emilio Nsue played his shot over the crossbar. Adama Noss stepped forward for Mali and he sent goalkeeper Jesus Owono the wrong way.
With the score tied at 2-2, Massadio Haidara took the Eagles’ attempt but it was saved by goalkeeper Owono.
Next up for Mali was captain Hamari Traore who blasted his effort wide off target while Pablo Ganet was unlucky to see his shot hit the woodwork and not go in.
With the score at 6-5, Sacko had the chance to draw the Eagles level but he fired his effort directly at goalkeeper Owono.
Equatorial Guinea's triumph means they will face Senegal in the last-eight stage on January 30 as they look to surpass their fourth-place finish at Afcon 2015.