Mozambique defeated Benin 3-2 at Estadio do Zimpeto in Maputo on Saturday afternoon to secure qualification for the next Africa Cup of Nations.
Needing to avoid defeat to finish second in Group L behind reigning African champions Senegal, the Mambas were behind early on to a Steve Mounie penalty, but goals from Witi and Ricardo Guimaraes put them 2-1 up through the first half.
The Cheetahs, however, struck back early in the second via Jodel Dossou and had the hosts biting their nails right up to injury time, when Celsio Bauque struck home the winner to calm the home nation’s nerves.
The result sees Mozambique return to the Afcon for the first time since 2010 for what will be their fifth appearance at the tournament finals.
Mozambique enjoyed most of the possession early on, but they were caught out by a Benin counter attack which resulted in a penalty for the visitors: Steve Mounie struck home from the spot kick in the 20th minute to put the Cheetahs 1-0 up.
The Mambas fought back and claimed an equaliser in the 27th minute via Witi, who turned home Bruno Langa’s assist to make it 1-1 and put them back on course for qualification.
And the hosts took further control of their own destiny with a second goal, arriving the 32nd minute when Witu turned provider, teeing up Ricardo Guimaraes to strike past goalkeeper Saturnin Allagbe for a 2-1 lead.
Benin renewed their aggression in the second half and made it 2-2 five minutes after the restart, with Jodel Dossou getting on the end of Abdoul Moumini’s assist to find the back of the net and revive their hopes of an away upset.
With a chance of Afcon qualification in their sights, the West Africans played their joker with the introduction of 39-year-old veteran Stephane Sessegnon with 20 minutes of regulation time to play.
The Cheetahs pushed for an equaliser, but deep in injury time they suffered a sucker punch when Geny Catamo teed up Clesio Bauque to score the winner and secure a glorious day for Mozambican football.
Mozambique (2) 3 (Witi 27’, Guimaraes 32’, Bauque 90+5’)
Benin (1) 2 (Mounie 20’ pen, J. Dossou 50’)
MOZAMBIQUE: Siluane, Macandza, Mexer, Witi (Bauque 61’), Langa, Malembana, Pelembe (Nene 89’), Amadu (Vilanculos 88’), Catamo, Guimaraes (Nangy 77’), Ratifo (Bangal 61’)
BENIN: Allagbe, Moumini, Verdon, Hountondji, Kiki, Dodo (P. Dossou 75’), D’Almeida (Koupo 90’), J. Dossou (Ahlinvi 75’), Olatain (Sessegnon 69’), Hountondji (Tchetchao 69’), Mounie