Libreville: The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations dished up a pulsating opening day with co-hosts Equatorial Guinea bagging their $1 million bonus and star-studded Senegal falling to Zambia.
Saturday's double header from Bata was kicked off by Equatorial Guinea, sharing the hosting honours with neighbours Gabon, against Libya.
The Group A game was heading for a goalless stalemate until former Real Madrid Javier Balboa broke the deadlock with three minutes on the clock to send the home fans wild.
Balboa, a Real player under Fabio Capello seven years ago but now in Portugal, raced down the middle to clinically finish a superb Daniel Ekedo pass with a shot over the goalkeeper.
Equatorial Guinea, making their debut, not only gave themselves a fantastic chance of making it to the quarter-finals with this 1-0 win but in the process swelled their bank accounts after picking up the $1 million bonus offered by a son of the country's president.
"We played a good match. We hadn't trained a lot together but nevertheless we still won," said Equatorial Guinea's Brazilian coach Gilson Paulao.
"The team made the most of the tactics. But despite the win, we were still short in some areas and we have to work on that."
This was a sad start for Libya, who risked their lives travelling from Tripoli to Tunisia to prepare to qualify as civil war raged in the north African country.
Earlier angry Libyan officials had complained after a Moamer Kadhafi-era green flag appeared on the tournament organisers CAF's website. It was replaced with a black, red and green one representing the ruling National Transitional Council.
Senegal were hot favourites to see off Zambia in the second leg of the Bata double bill.
But Emmanuel Mayuka and Rainford Kalaba gave the Copper Bullets a two-goal lead within 20 minutes and all Senegal had to show for their dominance after half-time was a Dame N'Doye goal which set up a tense climax.
The 2-1 victory was a personal triumph for France-born coach Herve Renard, who has vowed to win the tournament and honour the 1993 Zambian national team whose plane plunged into the sea near Bata killing all 30 on board.
"It's fantastic to beat Senegal. This is not a surprise, it's the result of a lot of hard work," said Renard.
"But there are still two games to play. We have to keep our feet on the ground and not get carried away as when you beat Senegal you think you can beat anybody."
Senegal coach Amara Traore said: "The first half was a calamity."
"Zambia caused us a lot of discomfort and did more running. But we still have a chance to get through. Tonight changes nothing."
Sunday's fare comes from Malabo, the Equatorial Guinea island capital, with competition favourites Ivory Coast facing Sudan and Burkina Faso taking on Angola.