The Elephants made it to Brazil 2014 with a 4-2 aggregate win, but they were very much second-best as Moussa Sow's late penalty saw the Lions of Terranga come within a goal of usurping Sabri Lamouchi's side, before Kalou's last-gasp leveller.
After a lacklustre performance by Senegal in the first-leg, overturning the 3-1 deficit always looked like it would be a challenge, though Papiss Cisse's away goal with virtually the last kick of the game gave them hope coming into the match in Casablanca.
It looked clear from the way the hosts - who were unable to stage the game on home soil because of riots when the pair met last year - began the game that they knew a quick start was needed. While Gervinho set some initial pulses racing as quick feet saw him cause havoc in the Senegal area, the men in orange spent most of the first period on the back foot.
The clearest opportunity of the first-half came after 12 minutes for the chasing side, who were showing some of the fight that was largely missing in the first leg. Stephane Badji picked out Dame N'Doye with a cross from the right, but his downward header had to be spectacularly hacked away by Didier Drogba. The pressure remained, however Idrissa Gueye's follow-up shot was struck firmly but wide.
Shortly after N'Doye ensured Boubakar Barry in the Elephants' goal was on his toes, firing a free-kick from an acute angle towards the goalkeeper's near post which he duly punched clear. Sane was next to try his luck, seeing a shot from the edge of area deflected away for a corner – which could have gone anywhere – before connecting with a spectacular, goalbound overhead kick that was charged down by Jean Jacques Gosso.
Cisse saw a volley skip wide before the break, where the hosts will no doubt have been have been kicking themselves for not reducing the deficit, but the Newcastle United striker should have opened the night's scoring straight after the interval. A terrible mix-up at the back, initiated by Souleymane Bamba, allowed Cisse to go one-on-one with Barry, but the Lokeren keeper stood tall and kept the match goalless.
Côte d'Ivoire found any sort of possession difficult as the pressure continued, but N'Doye and Salif Sane saw efforts go wide and blocked respectively as time ran thin for the Lions of Terranga. But just as hope looked to be running out, captain Drogba of all people pulled down Sadio Mane in the area. Sow converted the penalty to set up a grandstand final 15 minutes.
The visitors sprang into life at this point, with their Brazil 2014 dream no longer looking secure, with Yaya Toure testing Bouna Coundoul twice as Senegal desperately searched for a dramatic last-gasp second.
With the hosts pouring forward, a breakaway left the Elephants all free to tie the game as Kalou slotted through Coundoul and provide relief for a nation.