South Africa can breath a heavy sigh of relief after Bafana Bafana completed a crucial 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast in their African Cup of Nations qualifier at Polokwane on Sunday.
The result means that Shakes Mashaba's side need just a draw against Burundi on July 6 to ensure their qualification for Tunisia 2004 ahead of the plucky Ivorians.
Ahead of the game, perhaps the only surprise selection was that of Andre Arendse in goal, the Sundowns keeper replacing former national skipper Brian Baloyi.
Tebeho Mokoena picked up a yellow card on six minutes for a crunching tackle in midfield, but Shaun Bartlett had the first chance for South Africa just moments later as superb build-up play between himself and Benni McCarthy put him free, before a great saving tackle by Arsenal's Kolo Toure snuffed out the danger.
Stanton Fredericks really should have put the home side ahead in their next attack as Steven Pienaar found him in space with a magnificent ball, but after initially slipping, he ballooned his shot over the bar.
Serge Die was then booked after ten minutes for the Ivorians after a wild lunge at Pienaar.
But after some concerted pressure from the visitors, the breakthrough finally came for Bafana in the 18th minute after more great work from Pienaar allowed Delron Buckley time and space to cross, with Bartlett heading his inswinging centre into the net for his 26th international goal for South Africa.
Bartlett went close ten minutes later as Buckley's cross from the left again found him in space at the far post, but his first-time shot flashed just wide.
By now Buckley was wreaking havoc down the left for South Africa and another superb cross from him was headed wide for Teboho Mokoena when McCarthy was better placed to head home just behind him.
But it was the Ivorians who scored next in the 40th minute. As the game went into something of a lull, Arendse failed to clear a free-kick in his box, punching the ball down for Bonavanture Kalou to scoop the ball home.
And the visitors should have been ahead just minutes later as a some terrible South African defending allowed the Ivorians a shot on goal from close range, but somehow Arendse managed to pull off a truly remarkable point-blank save to keep the scores level, which was how it stayed until halftime.
Udinese striker Siyabonga Nomvete, back in action after 12 months out with a knee injury, replaced the ineffectual McCarthy at the break, while rightback Tony Coyle, who was repeatedly beaten for pace, was replaced by Orlando Pirates' Lucky Lekgwathi.
South Africa thought they were back in front in the 51st minute when captain Old-John Mabizelo headed home, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside. Replays showed Mabizelo was indeed onside.
South Africa were seeing all of the ball in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but were failing to create anything in front of goal.
The Ivorians seemed happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, knowing that a draw would seem them almost certain of a place at Tunisia 2004.
But that strategy did not pay off and after good work between Nomvete and the excellent Stanton Fredericks, the latter scored in his first game for Bafana since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan a year-ago.
Nomvete's pace was troubling the Ivorians but it was Arendse who had to act smartly and punch away as Kalou threatened to head home after being played onside by Thabang Molefe.
Both Mabizela and Teboho Mokoena had a chance to put the result beyond doubt with fifteen minutes to go, but both miss-kicked from Fredericks' cross.
Kaizer Chiefs' Jabu Mendu replaced Teboho Mokoena for the final ten minutes as coach Shakes Mashaba looked to inject fresh legs into midfield.
And in the end the home side were able to hold onto their lead, despite some heavy pressure from the Ivorians, who must now hope Burundi can beat Mashaba's side in a fortnight.