PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa - Mali crushed host South Africa's dreams and Ghana ended debutants Cape Verde's remarkable adventure in the first batch of Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals yesterday.
South Africa were trying to emulate the class of '96 by lifting the continental showpiece on home turf, but it wasn't to be as Mali booked their place in the semi-finals.
At a packed house in Durban the two sides were inseparable at 1-1 at the end of extra time with Tokelo Rantie putting Bafana Bafana ahead on 31 minutes and Seydou Keita levelling with 58 minutes gone.
That set up a nerve-jangling penalty shoot-out climax with Mali prevailing 3-1.
Cheick Tidiane Diabate, Adama Tamboura and Mahamane Traore converted their efforts for the Malian Eagles while Soumbeyla Diakite saved from Dean Furman and May Mahlangu and Lehlohonolo Majoro blazed wide.
Success was a timely morale boost for Malians, whose troops have been been on the offensive against Islamist extremists in the north of the country, backed by forces from France and other African states.
"This win signifies a great deal," acknowledged Mali captain Keita.
"You see the Mali flag, which is not only flying in the north and the south of Mali, but also outside Mali.