Mauritania missed out on the chance to go top of group I after being held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man DR Congo in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Stade Cheikha Ould Boidiya on Wednesday morning.
The Leopards got off to a dream start in Nouakchott when Cedric Bakambu opened the scoring after just nine minutes, but they were made to hang on for the final half-hour following his sending-off, just two minutes after Mohamed Soueid had equalised for Amir Abdou's side.
The group remains wide open as the Lions of Chinguetti remain third on five points, only two shy of leaders Gabon, while DR Congo are just two points adrift of Sudan, who occupy the second qualifying spot.
Sebastien Desabre's team had got their qualifying campaign up and running with a 3-1 victory in Lubumbashi four days earlier to bring an end to Mauritania's unbeaten start.
The visitors looked set to repeat the feat in the away leg when they hit the front on nine minutes with the first chance of the game, Bakambu slotting home from close range to register his 15th goal for the Leopards.
Mauritania were quickly on the attack as they went in search of an equaliser, with Aly Abeid lining up a strike from range that required saving from Joel Kiassumbua on 12 minutes before Mamadou Niass failed to keep his shot down from just six yards out moments later.
The hosts continued to carve out chances without much success, although DR Congo threatened to double their lead on the stroke of halftime as Bakambu headed corner-kick inches over the crossbar.
Hemeya Tanjy almost drew the West Africans level moments after the restart with a header that just cleared the bar from Soueid's cross, while Mouhsine Bodda tested Kiassumbua on 55 minutes after letting fly from outside the box.
However, their efforts were finally rewarded on 57 minutes when Soueid beat Kiassumbua with a superb strike from range that flew into the top left corner of the net. The Central Africans suffered a major setback just two minutes later with the dismissal of Bakambu for a second bookable offence.
It was all Mauritania from that point on as they launched wave upon wave of attacks on the opposition goal, with Aboubakar Kamara coming close when he fired narrowly wide of the left post from distance in the 67th minute before Tanjy failed to hit the target from close range on 78 minutes.
Goalscorer Soueid squandered two late opportunities to complete the comeback win as he steered a header straight at Kiassumbua in the fifth minute of stoppage time and headed over from close range three minutes later.
Mauritania (0) 1 (Soueid 57')
DR Congo (1) 1 (Bakambu 9')
Mauritania: B. Niasse, I. Keita, L. Ba (L. Diakhaby 86'), B. Ndoye, A. Abeid (K. Diaw 80'), G. Fofana (M. El Hacen 80'), M. Bodda, M. Soueid, M. Niass (S. Doukara 46'), A. Kamara, H. Tanjy (A. Mahmoud 90+2').
DR Congo: J. Kiassumbua, D. Amale, C. Mbemba, M. Bokadi, A. Masuaku, T. Bongonda (M. Elia 72'), S. Moutoussamy, A. Tshibola, Y. Wissa (M. Lilepo 72'), C. Bakambu, A. Kalulu (F. Mayele 58').