The result sees all four teams in Group B now tangled on one point apiece, setting up an interesting second matchday in the section.
Nervy Gabon were made to pay for their inexperience early in the contest when Henri Ndong lunged inside his own penalty area, committing a foul and conceding a spot-kick. Admir Mehmedi stepped up, and although he had to take the penalty twice, eventually made it 1-0 in the fifth minute.
The game quickly developed a physical edge, with some wild tackles and heavy contact all over the pitch. The Africans settled into their rhythm, though, and used their blinding speed to move up the flanks with a sense of purpose.
The Swiss should have doubled their lead in the 19th minute, but Mehmedi missed a golden chance to grab his second of the game when he got his feet tangled up.
Gabon striker Pierre Aubameyang, who plays his club football for Saint-Etienne in France, began to assert himself on the match. After 20 minutes, his pass set up Jerry Obiang, who hammered the ball against the crossbar.
Aubameyang then had two more chances in quick succession before finally aligning his shooting sights and getting the historic strike for Gabon. The livewire forward collected the ball just inside the box from a high cross, before slotting between the legs of Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.
The second half was a cagey affair, with Gabon continuing to threaten an upset. Their hopes of pulling off a first-ever Olympic win grew in the 77th minute, when Switzerland’s Oliver Buff was shown a second yellow card for diving in the box and given his marching orders.
The Gabonese, however, were unable to take advantage and the match finished 1-1. The Swiss now take on Korea Republic on 29 July, while Gabon clash with Mexico in a section that is wide open after matchday one.