A seven minute blitz following the interval inspired South Africa to a 3-2 come from behind victory over Senegal in the 2015 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor on Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0 at the break, goals from Gift Motupa and Menzi Masuku propelled Owen da Gama's men to a much needed win.
South Africa next face Tunisia on Friday with their future in the competition in their own hands, as for Zambia, they need favours from elsewhere to keep their Olympic dream alive.
Chipolopolo created the best chances in the first half, but were denied by Jody February who produced a top drawer save before Tebogo Moerane was on hand to stifle Zambia with a last ditch tackle.
The Zambians though were rewarded on 35 minutes, Conlyde Luchanga firing home on the volley to hand Fighton Simukonda's troops the lead at the halfway mark.
Whatever da Gama said at the break worked wonders for South Africa who pulled level two minutes into the second stanza through Masuku who poked in from close range.
Motupa then completed his brace between the 52nd and 54th minute, first nodding in from close range before latching onto a superb through ball by Orlando Pirates teammate Masuku.
Zambia pulled goal back through Billy Mutale on 73 minutes, but South Africa held on for all three points.
South Africa (0) 3 (Masuku 47' Motupa 52' 54')
Zambia (1) 2 (Luchanga 35' Mutale 73')
South Africa: February; Mobara (Macheke 62'), Mngonyama, Coetzee, Moerane, Motupa, Dolly, Masuku, Mekoa Mahlambi (Norodien 84'), Zuma (P.Ntshangase 46')
Zambia: Nsabata; Chepeshi, Mkandawire, Kampamba (Samu 48'), Sautu (Chirwa 87'), Musonda, Sakala, Kayawe (Phiri 60'), Katema, Luchanga, Mutale