Prolific Liverpool scorer Mohamed Salah was the architect of the only goal as Egypt edged Senegal 1-0 in Cairo on Friday in a high-profile World Cup play-off first leg.
Salah turned inside the box and slammed the ball against the crossbar with the rebound hitting Senegal defender Saliou Ciss and rolling into the net for an own-goal.
The eagerly awaited clash was a repeat of the Africa Cup of Nations final last month, which Senegal won 4-2 on penalties in Cameroon after 120 goalless minutes. Sadio Mane, a Liverpool teammate of Salah and scorer of the winning penalty in the African title decider, was closely guarded by Egypt.
He did have a chance soon after half-time off a Bouna Sarr cross, but a close-range header flew just wide of the post. The Cairo clash was one of three first legs decided by a solitary goal with Algeria winning 1-0 against Cameroon in Douala and Tunisia achieving a similar result against Mali in Bamako.
Ghana and Nigeria played a 0-0 draw in Kumasi and Morocco came from behind to hold the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-1 in Kinshasa. The five second legs are scheduled for Tuesday and the aggregate winners will represent Africa at the World Cup in Qatar from November 21.
Nigeria had to settle for a draw in Ghana after VAR overruled a decision to award the visitors a late penalty. A review found that Ghana midfielder Iddrisu Baba was fouled before he handled. Ghana came closest to breaking the deadlock with Nigerian goalkeeper Francis Uzoho pulling off a superb save to deny Fatahu Ishaku in the first half.
Veteran Lyon forward Islam Slimani scored five minutes before half-time to give Algeria victory over Cameroon. Slimani, 33, soared in a crowded goalmouth to head a Youcef Belaili free-kick powerfully past goalkeeper Andre Onana into the roof of the net.
Even 11 minutes of added time could not bring Cameroon an equaliser and they must win in Blida to avoid missing successive World Cups. Cameroon hold the record for World Cup appearances by an African nation with seven and have not missed two in a row since first qualifying in 1982.
Success was particularly sweet for Algeria as they fared disastrously in the Atlantic port city of Douala when defending the Africa Cup of Nations title two months ago.