CAIRO: Algeria dented Egypt s hopes of reaching the 2010 World Cup after claiming a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Zambia in Blida on Sunday.
Rafik Saifi scored the winner 14 minutes after the break to dash Zambia s hopes of causing a major upset in Group C.
Algeria, who now have 10 points from four games, regained their three-point lead over second-placed Egypt with two matches remaining.
Zambia, who have four points, will now be looking to hold onto their third place to reach the African Cup of Nations.
Algeria will host bottom side Rwanda in a relatively easy match while Egypt will play Zambia in Lusaka. The North African rivals will then lock horns in the last group clash in Cairo.
With a three-point and three-goal advantage over Egypt, Algeria have the better chance of qualifying for next year s South Africa finals.
The first-half was a balanced contest, with both sides trying their luck from distance after failing to break down opposing defense.
Algeria midfielder Khaled Lemmouchia fired a powerful drive that went just wide of the post after two minutes.
Zambia, who adopted an attacking approach, replied when Noah Chivuta s left-footed shot narrowly missed the target on 11 minutes.
Algeria and Zambia barely created goal-scoring opportunities afterwards but the hosts had a goal disallowed by the referee in the 33rd minute.
Saifi headed home from a corner but the referee adjudged Antar Yahia to have fouled Saifi s marker.
Zambia were also denied what looked like a valid goal when Jacob Mulenga s shot from inside the area found the net but the referee ruled it out for an alleged offside.
Television replays showed that Mulenga was played onside by an Algerian defender.
Saifi notched the decisive goal in the 59th minute when he was found unmarked by Karim Matmour s cross to volley home from close range.
Zambia pushed forward and left huge gaps at the back, allowing Algeria to expose their backline and waste several clear-cut chances to double their lead.