Cameroon and the Ivory Coast both won World Cup qualifiers on Saturday to set up a crunch clash to decide the outcome of their group, but Tunisia suffered a surprise loss in the African preliminaries.
The Cape Verde Islands and Nigeria were also winners on Saturday and will play against each other in Lagos on Tuesday to decide the outcome of their group.
Cameroon, who have made the most World Cup finals appearances by an African country with seven, put in their most convincing performance of the 2022 qualifying campaign as they beat Malawi 4-0 away.
Vincent Aboubakar tucked away a first-half penalty and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa added a second before the break.
Christian Bassogog scored a double in the closing stages of the match, which was played in Johannesburg because Malawi were banned from hosting World Cup qualifiers because none of their stadiums passed a FIFA inspection earlier this year.
The Ivorians were forced to move their last two home games to Cotonou, Benin because of a poor playing surface but were still good enough to beat Mozambique 3-0 later on Saturday.
Max-Alain Gradel scored early to settle the nerves and Maxwel Cornet and Jean Michael Seri netted two more in the second half.
It meant the Ivorians stayed one point ahead of Cameroon in the Group D standings but they must avoid defeat away in Yaounde on Tuesday if they are to advance to the March playoffs instead of the Indomitable Lions.
The 10 group winners play five two-legged ties to decide the African representation for Qatar and Tunisia were expected to add their name to a list that already includes Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Senegal.
FANCIED TO WIN
Tunisia were fancied to win away against Equatorial Guinea, but beaten 1-0 in Malabo with a late goal from Pablo Ganet, who plays in the fourth tier of Spanish club football.
Both countries now have 10 points in Group B but Tunisia finish at home to Zambia on Tuesday while Equatorial Guinea are away in Mauritania at the same time. Tunisia also have a plus seven goal difference to plus one for Equatorial Guinea.
Nigeria stayed two points ahead of the Cape Verde Islands in Group C after they won 2-0 away against Liberia. A first-half penalty from Victor Osimhen and a stoppage-time effort from Ahmed Musa secured the points.
Cape Verde had to come from behind to beat the Central African Republic 2-1 in Mindelo.
Sunday sees the start of the final sequence of group qualifiers with the outcome of Group G and Group J to be decided.
Ghana need to beat South Africa to win Group G while the Democratic Republic of Congo host Benin in Kinshasa also needing a victory in Group J. If neither home side triumphs, their visitors will advance.