(Reuters) - Sebastien Haller sent hosts Ivory Coast into the Africa Cup of Nations final as they beat Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 in Wednesday's semi-final.
Haller's 65th-minute goal at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium continued a remarkable recovery by the Ivorians who were almost eliminated in the group phase but will now take on Nigeria in Sunday's final.
Nigeria beat South Africa on penalties in Wednesday's other semi-final in Bouake.
Haller was making his first start after an ankle injury and his goal had a touch of fortune about it as he miscued his shot which bounced over Congolese goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi into the net.
Haller had missed a close-range header from Wilfried Singo’s pinpoint cross in the 40th minute to suggest the Ivorian forward was ring rusty.
He could have added a second three minutes after his goal when a poor back pass sent him free and although his effort to volley over the goalkeeper was clever, it was also off target.
Franck Kessie struck the woodwork with a powerful left- footed shot in the 42nd minute that hit the bottom of the post, bouncing away from goal with the Congolese keeper beaten.
It was all proof of the Ivorian dominance as they continued their revival after squeezing through the first round as the last of the best third-placed group finishers.
A 4-0 loss to tiny Equatorial Guinea and the subsequent sacking of veteran French coach Jean Louis Gasset is now all forgotten amid the celebrations of a capacity home crowd.
"It's like a dream for us. Two weeks ago we were far from thinking about the final. Overall I think this win was well deserved," said Emerse Fae, who took over as interim coach.
DR Congo’s best opportunity came at the end of a mazy dribbling run from substitute Theo Bongonda early in the second half but he hit the side netting with his shot.
The Congolese were attempting to reach their first final in 50 years while the Ivorians are the first hosts to make the final in the last nine tournaments since Egypt in 2006.
"Little details made the difference tonight. We knew we had the capacity to move forward to the final but we were up against a very good Ivorian side," said Congolese coach Sebastien Desabre.
DR Congo will play South Africa in the third place playoff in Abidjan on Saturday.