Zambia beat South Africa 1-0 in the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge on Wednesday, giving the defending African champions a significant boost ahead of their title defense next year.
Substitute Collins Mbesuma hit a powerful left-foot shot into the top corner in the 64th minute to send African Cup host South Africa to a home defeat at its showpiece Soccer City, venue for the opening game and final at next year's continental championship.
Kermit Erasmus had two late chances for South Africa but headed over from a corner and then had a 90th-minute shot from in front saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, Zambia's hero when it won the African title in Gabon in February.
Zambia's French coach, Herve Renard, celebrated with players on the pitch at fulltime to mark the significance of the win for the visitors.
Bafana Bafana struggled after an early injury to forward Tokelo Rantie and now have little time to gather themselves under new coach Gordon Igesund before the African Cup kicks off on Jan. 19.
''We have the team already, South Africa are trying to build a team,'' Zambia captain Stephen Katongo said. ''We have stayed together for a long time. We know each other very well. What's important is just to keep up the form.''
Mbesuma scored the decisive goal 20 minutes after arriving as a second-half substitute, controlling the ball and firing his shot from outside the penalty area past Itumeleng Khune. He also should have had a penalty late in the game when he was clipped from behind by South Africa captain Bongani Khumalo.
Thuso Phala, a substitute for South Africa, had his deflected shot tipped over by the impressive Mweene in the 75th.
Erasmus then missed from close range with his header when unmarked from a corner. His shot was blocked by Mweene in the dying minutes, and Katlego Mashego was thwarted from close range by a Zambian defender as he tried to force in the rebound.
''Well done to Zambia, they deserved their victory tonight,'' Igesund said. ''I've had the team for three months, five games and eight training sessions, which is very difficult. We are not a team yet.''