The much-hyped return of striker and captain Samuel Eto'o helped four-time champions Cameroon to a 2-1 home win over Cape Verde, but a 3-2 aggregate loss meant a second consecutive failure to reach the African football showcase.
An early Augusto Almeida goal was just what Cape Verde needed to settle their nerves as they prepared for an onslaught in the intimidating cauldron of the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde.
Achille Emana levelled soon after and there was relentless Indomitable Lions pressure during the second half, including an Eto'o attempt that struck the woodwork, but all they had to show for it was a late Fabrice Olinga goal.
Ethiopia edge through
Alula Girma and Saladin Said scored within four minutes during the second half in Addis Ababa to earn Ethiopia a 2-0 victory over Sudan and a ticket to South Africa on the away goals rule after a 5-5 aggregate deadlock.
The qualification of the Ethiopian Black Lions confirmed a recent upsurge of fortunes that has seen them lead their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying group after holding South Africa away and defeating Central African Republic at home.
They also won on away goals against Benin in the first elimination round for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and now return to a tournament they won for the only time 50 years ago.
Sudan won a goal-flush first encounter 5-3 thanks to a late Mohamed Al Tahir brace and were barely troubled during the opening half at the national stadium in the heart of the Ethiopian capital.
As the hour mark passed without a goal it was looking goood the visitors, and then Girma and Said turned the match on its head to the delight of a capacity 30,000 crowd.
Angola progress on away goals
Manucho scored twice in the early minutes in Luanda to earn a 2-0 win for Angola over Zimbabwe, securing an overall victory on away goals after a 3-3 tie, and a fifth consecutive Africa Cup of Nations appearance.
Emmanuel Adebayor of Tottenham Hotspur was on target for Togo in a 2-1 win over 2012 co-hosts Gabon, who were held at home in the first leg. Wome Dove was the other Togolese marksman and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed a late consolation goal.
Alain Traore struck five minutes into added time to give Burkina Faso a 3-1 home win over giant-killers Central African Republic, who took a one-goal lead into the tie having stunned seven-time champions Egypt in the previous round.
Equatorial Guinea halved a four-goal first-leg deficit against Congo DR after 35 minutes in Malabo, but Youssouf Mulumbu reduced the arrears before half-time and the home team had to settle for a hollow 2-1 win.
Any hopes Libya had of overhauling a one-goal loss first time out against Algeria did not last long in Blida, with El Arbi Hilal Soudani and Islam Slimani scoring within seven minutes as the home side cruised to a 2-0 victory.
A draw on 24 October in Durban will divide the 15 survivors plus South Africa - automatic qualifiers as hosts - into four groups for the flagship tournament, which takes place next year between 19 January and 10 February.