Sharing the points after a Group D thriller at Tundavala Stadium was enough for the four-time champions to advance alongside Zambia, who beat overnight leaders Gabon 2-1 in Benguela. A match that began so promisingly for the North Africans as they took a 57-second lead ended disastrously with defender Ammar Jemal sent off just before full-time for a second caution.
Tunisia were seeking a first Nations Cup victory over Cameroon after a draw and two losses, including an extra-time defeat in a quarter-final thriller two years ago in Ghana. And a youthful Carthage Eagles team captained by 25-year-old central defender Karim Haggui made a perfect start with Saudi Arabia-based striker Amine Chermiti scoring less than one minute after the kick-off.
Defender Khaled Souissi, one of the local footballers in the Tunisian squad, crossed from the right and Chermiti burst between two defenders to head the ball wide of goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. It was the third consecutive game in which the Indomitable Lions found themselves behind in the first half and after failing to level against Gabon, they hit back to edge Zambia in a five-goal thriller.
Tunisia goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi was cautioned after 30 minutes for handling outside the area to block an Eto'o shot, but the resultant free-kick from the Cameroon skipper posed no danger.
Cameroon did level in the opening minute of the second half as substitute Achille Webo and Mohamadou Idrissou combined to set up Eto'o, and the Inter Milan striker drilled the ball into the net off the far post. Zouhaier Dhaouadi squandered a chance for the Eagles but the North Africans regained the lead on 63 minutes as Aurelien Chedjou sent a looping header over Kameni as he tried to avert danger with Chermiti lurking.
Chedjou from French club Lille was starting a game for the first time in this tournament after Rigobert Song paid the price for error-strewn defending in the previous two matches.
Eto'o boasted before the game that he led a squad of fighters and this was proven once again as Cameroon equalised inside 60 seconds with Glasgow Celtic midfielder Landy Nguemo on target. Webo was proving an inspired half-time substitution as he once again featured in a goal build-up, laying the ball off to Nguemo, who fired past Mathlouthi with a low shot inside his near post.