Controversy ragged again as South Africa restored their hopes of World Cup qualification as they beat Burkina Faso 3-1 at Soccer City in Johannesburg in Group D, but their win came at a potentially heavy cost.
Bafana Bafana now need to beat Senegal both home and away in their last two qualifiers next month to stand any chance of going to Russia next year, but had Bongani Zungu sent off for violent play, which could earn him a two-match ban.
Despite victory, Bafana remain bottom of Group D after four matches, having played one game fewer than group leaders Burkina Faso, on six points.
South Africa will qualify if they beat Senegal in both games of their double-header in November, unless Cape Verde take maximum points from their remaining games.
Goals from the Mamelodi Sundowns trio of Percy Tau, Sibusiso Zwane and Sibusiso Vilakazi showed the team at its flowing best but there were also jittery moments as they sat back and allowed their visitors to come at them.
Alain Traore’s late free kick pulled one back for Burkina Faso, whose own World Cup hopes are now in trouble but not yet done.
The controversy came not only with the red card but the opening South African goal, scored in just 48 seconds — eight seconds shy of the record for the quickest goal scored by the country — and awarded after some hesitation by the Cameroon linesman.
Clayton Daniels flicked on a throw-in from Sifiso Hlanti and Tau got as touch to a ball that looked to cross the line, although television replays were inconclusive.
It was the perfect start for the beleaguered Bafana Bafana, playing in front of a sparse crowd at the cavernous Soccer City as supporters stayed away after their double defeat by the Cape Verde Islands in their last two games.
The second goal for Themba Zwane came after a tight offside call as a quick kick out from Itumeleng Khune found Andile Jali, playing in an unusual forward role, and he fed Zwane for a fine finish in the 34th minute.
Khune’ quick thinking led to the third goal in stoppage time at the end of the first half as took a goal kick to Tau, standing behind the Burkinabe defence, but not offside as it was a goal kick. Tau then back-heeled an audacious pass to Sibusiso Vilakazi to finish as Burkina Faso stood watching.
Zungu got the red card with some 20 minutes left after coming into an initial altercation between Charles Kabore and Kamohelo Mokotjo in the midfield. It seemed harsh as any one of four of five players could have been sent off by Cameroon referee Sidi Alioum.
Burkina battled near the end with altitude, and key playmaker Bertrand `Traore was unable to make much if an impact as South Africa full-back Sifiso Hlanti kept him largely in check.
A consolation goal for Burkina came from Traore’s perfect free kick which left Khune rooted to the spot.
The result was a major relief for beleaguered coach Stuart Baxter, who made eight changes after the debacle in Durban last month and gambled with his formation.