Nigeria will have to wait until at least the next round of qualifying matches to secure their place at the 2018 World Cup after they were held 1-1 by Cameroon on Monday night.
The teams’ stalemate at the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde leaves the Super Eagles on 10 points at the top of Group B, while the Indomitable Lions are third on three points. Zambia can close to within three points of the top of the table if they beat Algeria in Constantine on Tuesday.
Having been thrashed 4-0 by Nigeria on the weekend, the stalemate provides at least some redemption for Cameroon, who fought back from a goal down to share the spoils.
Both teams took their time in settling into the match, with Nigeria particularly happy to sit back and let their hosts make most of the running in the early minutes.
The Super Eagles gradually warmed to their task and began to threaten from a strong of set pieces.
On the half hour mark, in the wake of a dead-ball scenario, Victor Moses drove a low cross toward goal that was only half-saved by Fabrice Ondoa, and Moses Simon arrived to sweep home the loose ball and put Nigeria ahead.
Three minutes later it was nearly 2-0, with Odion Ighalo turning his marker inside out before firing a left-footed shot just over the target.
Cameroon started strongly in the second half, but struggled to find a way past Nigeria’s resilient defence - led by the centre-back pairing of Leon Balogun and William Troost-Ekong.
Just past the hour mark coach Hugo Broos made a double change by introducing Christian Bassogog and Vincent Aboubakar to boost his attack, while Nigeria responded by sending on Ndubisi Agu for the tiring John Obi Mikel.
Midway through the second half Moses almost doubled the visitors’ advantage, as he showed great skill and composure to open up shooting space in the box, only to see his effort skim the crossbar.
Cameroon drew level with 15 minutes of regulation time to play, as Aboubakar converted a debatable penalty which had been given away in a collision between goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Arnaud Djoum.
Ezenwa was in major action again in the 84th minute, as he superbly parried a snap shot from Aboubakar, before getting up to make a brave stop at the feet of Collins Fai.
Cameroon (0) 1 (Aboubakar 75’ pen)
Nigeria (1) 1 (Simon 30’)
Cameroon: Ondoa, Fai, Teikeu, Banana, Leuko, Zambo Anguissa, Djoum, Siani, Moukandjo (Bassogog 62’), Olinga (Ngamaleu 81’), Nsame (Aboubakar 62’)
Nigeria: Ezenwa, Shehu, Balogun, Troost-Ekong, Echiejile, Onazi (Etebo 87’), Ndidi, Mikel (Agu 65’), Simon, Moses, Ighalo (Iheanacho 80’)