South Africa have launched an appeal to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in a bid to reach the finals of the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
Bafana Bafana thought their goalless draw with Sierra Leone on Saturday was enough to secure a place in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea next year and even indulged in a post-match lap of honour.
The South Africa management thought the group was decided on goal difference only to discover Niger had qualified by virtue of a better head-to-head record between the three teams who finished on nine points: Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone.
"(We) wish to signal that we intend to challenge this interpretation and application of the rules," the South African Football Association said in a statement.
SAFA added goal difference is the "the universally recognised means of separating teams".
However, the qualification rules set out on CAF's website clearly state 'in case of equality of points between two or more teams, after all the group matches, the ranking of the teams shall be determined by the greater number of points obtained in the matches between the concerned teams'.
Niger top that three-team mini league, with their six points one superior to the tally mustered by both South Africa and Sierra Leone.
It all amounts to an embarrassing scenario for South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane, who set his team out to draw, believing a point was enough.
"Do you think I would have left (striker Lehlohonolo) Majoro on the bench and put on a midfielder if I knew that we needed a goal? It doesn't make sense," he said.
SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani has vowed to fight all the way.
"Do not despair. All is not lost - we believe we have a case and we will carry this fight all the way," he said.
"In the meantime, be positive, and leave everything in our hands."