CABINDA, Angola – Ten-man Ivory Coast became the first side to reach the last eight of the Cup of Nations after defeating Ghana 3-1.
The Elephants broke the deadlock through Gervinho on 23 minutes with a classic counter-attacking move.
The Ivorians extended their lead in the 66th minute when Siaka Tiene curled a left-foot free-kick into the top right-hand corner of the goal.
Didier Drogba headed in from a delightful cross before Asamoah Gyan converted a late penalty for Ghana.
Despite their victory, the Ivorians will be lamenting the absence of defender Emmanuel Eboue in the last eight after the Arsenal man was sent off for a crude tackle on Agyemang Opoku.
However, at least the Elephants have a quarter-final to look forward to – Ghana will only be guaranteed of further participation if they beat Burkina Faso on Tuesday to finish second in a group reduced to three teams following Togo’s withdrawal.
The young Ghanaian side could, though, have taken an early lead as midfielder Emmanuel fired a long-range effort in the fifth minute which beat goalkeeper Barry Boubacar but went inches wide.
Ivory Coast rallied and took control of the midfield with Salomon Kalou, Yaya Toure and Didier Zokora directing affairs and creating opportunities for Drogba and Gervinho.
Goalkeeper Richard Kingson palmed away a Zokoro long-range drive before imposing centre back Isaac Vorsah twice stood firm to deny Drogba.
But they were not be denied when Gervinho ran from the halfway line and played a one-two with Kalou before finishing past Kingson.
Boubacar had to be in top shape on 38 minutes to parry Kwadwo Asamoah’s drive after the Udinese man dummied his marker at the edge of the box.
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac injected more urgency into his side at the break when he brought on Michael Essien for Moussa Narry while Asamoah Gyan replaced youngster Dede Ayew.
And the ploy worked initially as Ghana took a hold of the midfield, prompting a series of desperate tackles from the Ivorian defenders, Eboue guilty of a two-footed lunge on Opoku for which he received his marching orders.
Ghana made use of their numerical advantage to carve out chances for Asamoah – who went close with a free-kick – and Matthew Amoah, who hit the post with a low shot.
And they were made to pay for their profligacy when Tiene curled a left-foot shot into the top corner which left Kingson stranded.
The Elephants were 3-0 up in 90th minute after substitute Abdel Kader Keita left his two markers sprawling on the ground before crossing for Chelsea striker Drogba to head emphatically past the keeper.
But there was still time for Ghana to pick up the scantest of consolations, Gyan sending the Ivorian keeper the wrong way after picking himself up to convert a penalty.