Record seven-time champions Egypt will miss consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments for the first time since 1968 after being held to a 1-1 draw in the Central African Republic Saturday.
Stunned 3-2 at home in a delayed first leg played behind closed doors two weeks ago, the Pharaohs fell behind midway through the first half in Bangui when captain Foxi Kethevoama scored.
Veteran striker Emad Moteab, one of four players brought into the side by American coach Bob Bradley after the Alexandria debacle, levelled late in the second half, but the visitors never looked like scoring the other two goals they needed to salvage the tie.
After winning a record three titles on the trot between 2006 and 2010, Egypt finished last behind Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone in a 2012 qualifying group.
Now they have fallen at the first hurdle on the road to the 2013 finals in South Africa after starting as strong favourites to eliminate opponents 14 places lower on the FIFA Africa rankings.
While the cancellation of the domestic league after 74 fans died in riots after a game in Port Said on February 1 robbed Egyptian players of match practice, it has given Bradley more time than usual with the national squad.
Central African Republic, who have never come close to qualifying for African football’s showpiece, will join 29 other countries for a final-round qualifying draw on July 5 in Johannesburg.
The exit of Egypt means Morocco will be among the 15 seeded teams for the draw at a hotel cafe near OR Tambo international airport while the Central African Republic are one of the unseeded sides.
Defending champions Zambia head the list of seeded countries which includes Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia.
The unseeded countries are Botswana, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Kazakhstan-based Kethevoama, one of two brothers in the Wild Beasts squad, headed home a Romaric Lignanzi cross on 24 minutes before a capacity 20,000 crowd crammed into the Barthelemy Boganda Stadium.
The Moteab equaliser left Egypt needing to score twice more under the away goal rule to squeeze through, but the home defence held firm for a famous triumph.