Cape Verde Islands secured a place at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time Sunday and former champions Ethiopia are back in the big time after a 30-year absence.
The much-hyped return of striker and captain Samuel Eto'o helped four-time champions Cameroon to a 2-1 home win over Cape Verde, but a 3-2 aggregate loss means a second consecutive failure to reach the African football showcase.
Alula Girma and Saladin Seid scored within four minutes during the second half in Addis Ababa to earn Ethiopia a 2-0 victory over Sudan and a ticket to South Africa on the away-goal rule after a 5-5 aggregate deadlock.
An early Augusto Almeida goal was just what Cape Verde needed to settle the nerves as they prepared for an onslaught in the intimidating cauldron of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde.
Achille Emana levelled soon after and there was relentless Indomitable Lions pressure during the second half, including an Eto'o attempt that struck the woodwork, but all they had to show for it was a late Fabrice Olinga goal.
Eto'o was back after a year of international inactivity due to an eight-month ban imposed by the national football federation for instigating a bonus-related boycott of a friendly in Algeria.
He also refused to turn up for the first leg in Cape Verde last month, labelling the national squad "amateurish and badly managed", and his absence contributed to the blackest day in Cameroonian football.
Portuguese-speaking Cape Verde is an archipelago off the coast of Senegal with a population estimated at just 500,000, and the national squad consists mainly of footballers at unfashionable European clubs.
The qualification of the Ethiopian Black Lions confirmed a recent upsurge of fortunes that has seen them lead a 2014 World Cup qualifying group after holding South Africa away and defeating Central African Republic at home.
They also won on away goals against Benin in the first elimination round for the 2013 Cup of Nations and now return to a tournament they won for the only time 50 years ago.
Sudan won a goal-flush first encounter 5-3 thanks to a late Mohamed Al Tahir brace and were barely troubled during the opening half at the national stadium in the heart of the Ethiopian capital.
As the hour mark passed without a goal it was looking good the visitors, and then Girma and Seid turned the match on its head to the delight of a capacity 30,000 crowd.
There are six other fixtures later Sunday with Central African Republic out to prove they are worthy of the ninth place achieved on the latest monthly CAF rankings when they defend a 1-0 lead in Burkina Faso.
The Wild Beasts, who have never come close to reaching the Cup of Nations, caused the greatest shock in the five-decade qualifying competition when they ousted record seven-time champions Egypt during June in the first round.