New Nigeria coach Shuaibu Amodu has one month to find a recipe for success away to Congo Brazzaville or face near-certain elimination from the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
A draw would keep the Super Eagles in contention only if group leaders South Africa suffer an unlikely home defeat by Sudan.
Caretaker coach Stephen Keshi was sacked after a 3-1 home victory against Sudan Wednesday gave the defending champions their first mini-league win in four matches.
The `Big Boss` guided Nigeria to the African title last year, but his contract was not renewed following a second-round exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Record seven-time champions Egypt and shock 2012 winners Zambia are also battling to reach the January 17-February 8 tournament despite midweek wins.
AFP sport takes a group-by-group look at what could transpire during the final two matchdays in mid-November, when top-two finishers qualify with the best third-place team.
(South Africa 8 pts, Congo 7, Nigeria 4, Congo 3)
A home victory over Sudan will guarantee South Africa qualification, leaving Congo Brazzaville and Nigeria to fight for second place in Pointe-Noire.
A draw will suffice for Congo as they would take a head-to-head advantage and a three-point lead over Nigeria into the final round.
(Algeria 12, Mali 6, Ethiopia 3, Malawi 3)
Top-ranked African team Algeria have qualified with a perfect record and Mali are set to finish second despite a shock home defeat by 10-man Ethiopia.
A point from matches against Malawi (away) and Algeria (home) should ensure the Malian Eagles make a fifth consecutive Cup of Nations appearance.
(Gabon 8, Burkina Faso 7, Angola 4, Lesotho 2)
Gabon and Burkina Faso have home advantage over Lesotho and Angola respectively in the final round and home victories will secure finals slots.
Angola were expected to be serious challengers under new coach Romeu Filemon, but look set to pay dearly for a three-goal Luanda drubbing by the Burkinabe.
(Cameroon 10, DR Congo 6, Ivory Coast 6, Sierra Leone 1)
This could be the group that supplies three qualifiers with Cameroon and Ivory Coast the two top finishers and DR Congo the best third-place team.
The biggest shock of an intriguing mini-league has been the 10 goals conceded by veteran Ivorian goalkeeper Boubacar Barry -- more than any other of the 28 teams.
(Ghana 8, Togo 6, Uganda 4,Guinea 4)
Ghana can seal qualification by drawing in Uganda during matchday 5 while a home win for Togo over Guinea would also take them to the biennial tournament.
Seemingly doomed after two defeats, Togo turned the tide with solitary-goal home and away victories over Uganda, whose last finals appearance was 36 years ago
(Cape Verde 9, Zambia 5, Mozambique 5, Niger 2)
Cape Verde are assured of a top-two finish and the Mozambique-Zambia clash in Maputo has become a winners-take-all southern Africa showdown.
A draw would suit 2012 champions Zambia more as they finish at home to Cape Verde while Mozambique visit Niger.
(Tunisia 10, Senegal 7, Egypt 6, Botswana 0)
The `group of death` has developed into the anticipated three-way struggle between Tunisia, Senegal and Egypt while Botswana concentrate on damage limitation.
Egypt remain the most vulnerable side as they must tackle Senegal (home) and Tunisia (away), who should pick up three points each against Botswana.