African giants Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana were all held to draws away from home as their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaigns got off to shaky starts.
All of the African sides must get through a two-legged tie before reaching the group stage, and many of the major sides failed to gain an edge in their away legs on Friday.
Senegal needed to rally from a two-goal deficit to force a 2-2 draw at Madagascar, a nation 79 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
Faneva Andriatsima and Njiva Rakotoharimalala had scored for the hosts, who made Senegal wait to score until the 70th minute, when Stoke's Mame Biram Diouf found the net.
Southampton's Sadio Mane provided the equaliser 10 minutes later to give Senegal a slim advantage ahead of the return leg thanks to their two away goals.
Nigeria will enjoy no such advantage after being held to a goalless draw at Swaziland.
The Super Eagles dominated the majority of play but could not find the breakthrough, though Rabiu Ibrahim's free kick hit the crossbar on 58 minutes.
Manchester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho made his debut for Nigeria and Obafemi Martins returned for his first international in two years.
Ghana also settled for a goalless draw at Comoros, who at 177th in the world are the lowest-ranked side remaining in African qualifying.
Both Nigeria and Ghana will be under pressure to win their home legs next Tuesday or they will be eliminated from qualification even before the group stage begins.
There was another shock result as Cape Verde lost 1-0 at Kenya, a team 93 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
Michael Olunga's ninth-minute header was the difference to put Cape Verde's qualification hopes in jeopardy.
Cameroon had no such trouble under new coach Alexandre Belinga as they won 3-0 at Niger, with Stephane M'Bia, Vincent Aboubakar and Edgar Salli all scoring within a five-minute period before half-time.
Without injured striker Wilfried Bony, and with Yaya Toure still on a sabbatical from international duty, Ivory Coast were made to work but won 1-0 at Liberia, the only goal coming when Gohi Bi Cyriac was played in on goal just before half-time and finished from 10 yards.
South Africa took control of their tie with a 3-1 win at Angola.
The hosts took the lead when teenager Gelson dribbled through the defense to score after just three minutes, but South Africa equalised with Tokelo Rantie's goal eight minutes later, before Thamsanqa Gabuza provided a lead on 21 minutes.
Andile Jali wrapped up the win with a second-half penalty but was then sent off after picking up a second yellow card for inciting the home crowd.
Tunisia rallied with two-second half goals to beat Mauritania 2-1.
Oumar N'Diaye had given Mauritania a half-time lead but goals from Wahbi Khazri and Yassine Chikhaoui ensured Tunisia's victory.
Libya won their home leg -- played in neutral Tunisia -- as a Faical Al Badri penalty was enough to beat Rwanda 1-0.