Steve Mounie scored a second-half goal against hosts Tanzania, which could be key to Benin’s hopes of reaching the play-offs next year for the African World Cup qualifiers.
The striker’s 72nd-minute goal secured the visitors not only a crucial 1-0 victory in Dar es Salaam, but also first place in Group J.
Benin now has seven points and is chased by DR Congo, who won their first match after beating Madagascar 2-0 at home to fall two points behind the leaders.
Tanzania, who play in Benin on Sunday, remain at four points while Madagascar support the group at the midpoint after a third consecutive defeat.
The Malagasy held their own until the 35th minute when Chadrac Akolo opened the scoring in Kinshasa before Dieumerci Mbokani caught his third in as many qualifying matches late in the game.
Madagascar can take its revenge by hosting the Leopards on Sunday, the only team in the group to have reached a World Cup.
Somewhere else, Liberia may regret the poor condition of their stadium in Monrovia after losing 2-1 in stoppage time against Green cap in neutral Ghana.
Van-Dave Harmon opened the scoring for Liberia deep in stoppage time in the first half before Jamiro Monteiro, just as a substitute, leveled things off seven minutes after the break.
The drama always remained as Cape Verde claimed victory in the 92nd minute at the Accra sports stadium as another substitute, Garry Rodrigues, secured their first Group C victory.
The islanders are second with four points, two behind the leaders, Nigeria, Liberia with three points and the Central African Republic one.
Liberia is one of 11 countries, representing more than a quarter of African teams in the second round, unable to play at home due to poor infrastructure.
Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Mozambique were added to the eight banned countries last month, with Niger being removed from the list after being given the green light to host matches.
Nigeria can extend their lead to five points later if they beat the Central African Republic in Lagos.
The four teams in Group B are also in action Thursday as the Tunisian leaders welcome Mauritania to Radès while Equatorial Guinea and Zambia, who are three points behind the Carthage Eagles, meet in Malabo.
Group E also sees a double header as Mali, whose four points are enough to lead the group, take on Kenya in neutral Morocco as Uganda travel to Rwanda with both teams chasing a first victory. .
The winners of Africa’s ten qualifying groups will compete in the play-offs next March to nominate the continent’s five representatives for Qatar 2022.