Striker Victor Moses converted two late penalties to lead Nigeria to a 2-0 win over Ethiopia and a spot in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations on Tuesday.
Moses scored in the 80th and 90th minutes, sparing his team an early exit with a scoreless draw at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Ethiopia, appearing in its first tournament for more than 30 years, finished bottom of Group C. Defending champion Zambia was also eliminated after a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso, which won the group with five points. Nigeria also ended with five points, but trailed on goal difference.
Moses was twice fouled inside the area to win the penalties, and then kept his cool to find the net both times for the two-time African champions. The Chelsea striker was brought down by defender Alula Girma for the first penalty and then stopped by goalkeeper Sisay Bancha in another breakaway.
Bancha was red carded for the challenge and midfielder Addis Hintsa had to replace him in goal because all three substitutions had already been made.
Just after the first Nigeria goal, Ethiopia nearly equalized with a close-range header by Saladin Seid. However, Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama made a brilliant save, diving to his right and deflecting the ball with his outstretched arms.
Seeking its first title since 1994, Nigeria was coming off two 1-1 draws in the first matches, both times after having taken the lead. The Super Eagles didn't qualify for last year's tournament.
Nigeria's best chance before the penalties came in the 66th, when a header from Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel was cleared off the line.
Without the penalties, Mikel and his teammates would have been eliminated because of their disciplinary record. Nigeria and Zambia were level on points, goal difference and goals scored, so the decision would have gone down to a Fair Play system based on the number of yellow and red cards. Nigeria had more than Zambia until then.
Ethiopia needed to beat Nigeria and hope that Zambia lost its match against Burkina Faso.
It was also without top players Asrat Megerssa and Adane Girma, who were injured in the first half against Burkina Faso, while goalkeeper Jemal Tassew was suspended for two matches after a reckless tackle in the opener against Zambia.
Ethiopia won the Cup of Nations in 1962 but last qualified for the final tournament in 1982.