Ghana's bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup suffered a major setback on Friday after they could only draw 1-1 with Congo-Brazzaville in Kumasi.
Thievy Bifouma gave Congo the lead on 18 minutes after debutant Joseph Attamah's error handed him an opening. Thomas Partey then equalised with four minutes remaining, but it was too little, too late for the Black Stars
The result leaves Ghana third in Group E on two points, and they trail leaders Uganda by five points and are four behind second-placed Egypt with three matches remaining.
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah made a big call in dropping the experienced Harrison Afful for Attamah, but his decision backfired early on when the Turkey-based player, who was nervous throughout, was dispossessed by Fabrice Ondama and he duly picked out Bifouma for the opener.
While Attamah's early toil could have been explained away by debut nerves, there was no excuse for Ghana's failings up front, where the experienced quartet of Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu and the Ayew brother spurned several chances.
First, Jordan Ayew forged an opening on the left to set himself up, before attempting to squeeze in a shot from an almost impossible angle.
Atsu was similarly guilty of poor decision-making moments later, while Gyan fired a free kick wide during a frustrating first half.
Appiah switched things around after the break, introducing Afful, Miami FC's Kwadwo Poku and Thomas Agyepong for the troubled Attamah, an out-of-sorts Gyan, and Dede.
Agyepong, in particular, afforded the Black Stars a fresh attacking zest, while Atsu improved as the game went on, but the Black Stars still couldn't find a path to goal, with Congo keeper Barel Mouko equal to their best efforts.
Amidst a cacophony of boos towards the end of the match, Partey pulled a goal back to level the contest with a right-footed effort after being played in by Atsu, but even the most optimistic of Ghana fans will surely know that it will take a miraculous effort to reach Russia for the winless Black Stars.