Nigeria was held in Malawi, South Africa could only draw away to Botswana and African champion Zambia recovered from a poor start to its campaign to surprisingly beat in-form Ghana in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.

Tunisia had to battle for a 2-1 win away at Cape Verde as Africa's main qualifying stage continued to be tricky for the continent's top teams. Senegal gave up an 85th-minute equalizer for a 1-1 draw in Uganda.

Nigeria thought it had clinched victory with an 89th-minute winner via Ruben Gabriel's headed goal from a corner at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre. But Malawi stole a dramatic point in Group F two minutes into stoppage time through John Banda.

South Africa's first game after the firing of coach Pitso Mosimane began promisingly when defender Morgan Gould headed Bafana Bafana into the lead in the 14th minute from Steven Pienaar's corner.

Ofentse Nato netted seven minutes before halftime to once again peg back South Africa, which has begun qualifying with two draws to trail surprise Group A leader Central African Republic - which has played a game less.

Zambia had a rocky start to World Cup qualifying, where the recently crowned continental champion lost in Sudan and saw coach Herve Renard threaten to quit if he wasn't paid salaries owed to him by the end of the month.

But it recovered to surprise early Group D leader Ghana with a goal from captain Christopher Katongo in the 15th for a morale-boosting win in Ndola to join Ghana and Sudan on three points.

Ghana had beaten lowly Lesotho 7-0 to open qualifying, but once again fell to the Zambians, who also shocked the Black Stars in the semifinals at this year's African Cup of Nations.

Tunisia struggled to get past Cape Verde in Paia after Odair Fortes had brought Cape Verde level following Saber Khalifa's early opener.

Isaam Jomaa scored a minute into the second half to give the Tunisians a second straight win and control of Group B.

Senegal still leads Group J but was held at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Kampala following Godfrey Walusimbi's penalty five minutes from fulltime. New captain and Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse had put the Senegalese ahead in the 37th.

Juvenal's double earned a point for Equatorial Guinea with a 2-2 home draw with Sierra Leone, Namibia won 1-0 at home to Kenya with an 85th-minute winner from Henrico Botes, and Congo also scored late to edge Niger 1-0.

African Cup co-host Gabon beat Burkina Faso, also 1-0, to lift itself joint-top of Group E alongside Congo with a win and a draw from its opening two encounters.

Africa's second round of group games in qualifying for Brazil 2014 wraps up on Sunday before the competition breaks until March next year and qualifiers for the 2013 African Cup take over.

The 10 group winners in African World Cup qualifying will play off at the end of next year for five places in Brazil.