Stade Reims midfielder Moussa Doumbia scored the all-important first half goal to help Mali secure their passage to the Afcon finals with a narrow win over Gabon in the penultimate round on Saturday.
Mali can now afford to lose their last match at home to winless South Sudan as they lead Group C and are two-points clear of second-placed Burundi who have nine points.
The battle for the last qualifying spot from this group is now between Gabon and second-placed Burundi who clash in March next year.
The match will be a must-win for Gabon who have seven points, while Burundi, who thumped South Sudan 5-2 on Friday would be the home side and need just a draw to secure their maiden Afcon berth.
Meanwhile, Uganda beat Cape Verde 1-0 in Kampala to qualify for their second successive Afcon tournament with one match to spare.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) forward Patrick Henry Kaddu headed in the all-important goal 13 minutes before time to help the Cranes of Uganda seal an Afcon berth.
Interestingly, unbeaten Uganda are also yet to concede a goal in five games in the qualifiers and Saturday’s victory helped them consolidate their grip on top of Group L where they have 13 points.
If second-placed Tanzania beat Lesotho at Maseru’s Setsoto Stadium on Sunday they will claim an Afcon spot for the first time since 1980.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Morocco’s qualification for the Afcon finals was confirmed on Saturday after Group B rivals Comoros beat Malawi 2-1 in Moroni.
The Atlas Lions beat Cameroon 2-0 on Friday but had to wait for the Comoros-Malawi clash to know their fate.
Had Malawi beaten Comoros, Morocco would have had to wait for the final qualifying round.
Also, the tightly-contested Group K is headed for a photo finish after Namibia were held to a goalless draw by Guinea Bissau at home.
This group is assured not to have any team qualify for Cameroon 2019 until the last day as third-placed Mozambique and basement side Zambia square off in Maputo on Sunday.
Furthermore, Senegal edged Equatorial Guinea 1-0 away in Bata to maintain their unbeaten run and the Group A lead.
Spain-based teenage defender Luis Meseguer beat his own goalkeeper Felipe Ovono to hand Senegal the win.
The Teranga Lions are just playing for the prestige of finishing as Group A leaders, having already qualified for the Afcon finals together with Group A counterparts Madagascar, who host Sudan on Sunday.
Lastly, Gambia breathed a little bit of life into their Afcon qualification bid with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Benin at home in Bakau.
Benin had taken a first half lead courtesy of a Steve Mounie strike, but Gambia launched a spirited comeback with three goals in the last 20 minutes through Lamin Jallow, Modou Jobe and substitute Albie Jallow.
The Gambians are still bottom of Group D with five points after registering their first win of the campaign, and their fate now lies in the hands of Togo who host Algeria on Sunday.
If Togo win, Gambia’s qualification hopes would be dashed, but in the event of Algeria winning, their hopes will be hinged on beating the Desert Foxes on the final day while praying that Togo and Benin draw.