South Africa goalkeeper Ronwen Williams saved four penalties in the post-match shootout against the Cape Verde Islands to carry his country into the last four of the Africa Cup of Nations after a 0-0 draw in their quarterfinal on Saturday.
Mothobi Mvala scored the decisive kick to make it 2-1 on penalties and win South Africa a semifinal place for the first time since 2000 but they were fortunate to get past the smallest nation in the tournament at Charles Konan Banny Stadium.
South Africa now take on Nigeria in Bouake in their semifinal on Wednesday.
It was a game full of missed opportunities but Cape Verde, who have a population of 600,000 but draw most of their players from a large diaspora in Europe, had most of the chances and were only denied a last-four place by the heroics of Williams.
South Africa survived several scares with Williams making a brilliant save to take the game into extra time before continuing his heroics in the shootout by saving four of the five kicks taken by the Cape Verdians.
South Africa dominated the early exchanges but went off the boil after the cooling break, midway through the half, and it was Cape Verde who finished the first half strongly.
They could have been ahead had captain Ryan Mendes taken his chance as the ball fell favourably for him in the box but after several touches to get into a shooting position, his effort was blocked.
There was an even better opportunity for Garry Rodrigues when he was free on goal after breaking down the left but he hit a soft shot straight at Williams.
But they should have sewn it up in stoppage time when Gilson Benchimol got goalside of the defenders and onto the end of a pass from the midfield, hitting the ball perfectly on the half volley but Williams made an outstanding save, deflecting the ball onto the woodwork and collecting the rebound.
Cape Verde veteran goalkeeper Vozinha had little to do in the 90 minutes but made two excellent stops at the start of extra time, first a point-blank save from Mihlali Mayambela and then turning a header from Evidence Makgopa over the bar.
Vozinha also made one save in the shootout but it was Williams who emerged as the hero.
Earlier on Saturday, hosts Ivory Coast scored in the last minute of extra time to come from behind and beat Mali 2-1 in Bouake. The Ivorians meet the Democratic Republic of Congo in their semifinal on Wednesday.