Nigeria booked their place in Sunday's final with a comprehensive win over Mali
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeeeeep! It's all over. Nigeria have beaten Mali 4-1 to book their berth in the final, where they will play Ghana or Burkina Faso. After a sluggish start this afternoon they were deserved winners, but were gifted at least two of their four goals by some staggeringly inept defending from their Malian opposition. That's me done for this afternoon - thanks for your time and your emails.
90+3 min: With all Mali's men committed forward, Nigeria break on the counter-attack, which Adama Tamboura draws to an abrupt conclusion with a marvellous goal-saving tackle.
90+1 min: The giant Malian substitute Cheick Diabate rampages down the inside left channel before playing the ball between two defenders, teeing up his namesake Cheick Diarra in the process. He shoots high and wide.
90 min: Unwilling to put Mali out of their misery, the referee announces that there will be three minutes of injury time. To be fair to him, it's the bare minimum - 30 seconds for each substitution.
89 min: Diabate goes close for Mali, but no cigar for him.
86 min: Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike goes down clutching his thigh after driving a fine effort from distance inches wide of the right upright. He's helped from field grimacing with pain and the air of a man who has every right to be concerned he might have to sit out the final. That doesn't look great for him and Nigeria have nobody to send on his stead, as they've used all three substitutes.
83 min: Mali defender Fousseiny Diawarra gets booked for getting a bit too up close and personal with Ejike Uzoenyi.
82 min: Nigeria substitution: Efe Ambrose makes way for Everton legend Joseph Yobo, who plays his football for Fenerbahce these days. He's 32 years old, it says here.
81 min: Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon! Sound the Yobo klaxon!
79 min: Nigeria continue to dominate, despite Mali's goal. They've been vastly superior this afternoon.
GOAL! Mali 1-4 Nigeria (Diarra 75) The substitute slots the ball into the empty net, getting on the end of a pull-back from the byline after Cheick Diabate had shimmied down the inside-right, drawing goalkeeper Enyeama out of his goal, before delivering the killer pass. Nigeria's defence was shocking.
73 min: Nigerian substitution of two minutes ago: Brown Ideye off, Ejike Uzoenyi on.
72 min: Mahamadou Samassa spurns a good opportunity to take the bare look off Mali's half of the scoreboard, shooting half-heartedly and tamely at Vincent Enyeama from close range when he should really have done better.
70 min: With 20 minutes to go, Mali 4-0 down and the rain hammering down in Durban, you get the feeling that the Eagles would settle for this defeat if the referee ended the game now. They've had their wings well and truly clipped by their Super Eagle counterparts and will do well not to ship another couple of goals before the final whistle.
66 min: Mali make their final susbtitution and it's an example of Africa Cup of Nations administration at its best. The fourth official holds up a baord with Seydou Keita's number on it, but it's one of the Traores who troops off the field to be replaced by Samba Sow, a 23 year old midfielder who plays his club football with Lens.
65 min: Nigeria go on the attack again, with Mali having apparently given up the ghost. Another promising sortie into Mali territory comes to an end when another Nigerian is flagged for offside.
63 min: Musa gets the ball in the Mali net, but his effort is ruled out for an offside in the build-up. There were a couple of Musa's team-mates in offside positions in two phases of play that led to the score and a man could argue all afternoon about whether or not they were interfering with play. Luckily for you, I am not inclined to do so.
GOAL! Mali 0-4 Nigeria (Musa 59) Mali's back four is caught horribly flat-footed as the substitute Ahmed Musa latches on to a defence-splitting through ball and neatly slots it between the legs of the onrushing goalkeeper Samassa. They'll do well to emulate their 2010 heroics against Angola here.
58 min: Thanks to Richard Dennis, who has written in to point out that Mali do actually have form when it comes to stunning comebacks. In the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, they trailed Angola 4-0 in Luanda with 16 minutes to go, but ended up drawing 4-4.
56 min: Mali substitution: Momo Sissoko makes way for Bordeaux striker Cheick Diabate.
54 min: Mali's Molla Wague rises highest at the far post to attack a cross from deep with his head. Wide.
53 min: Nigeria substitution: Victor Moses, who appears to have bruised his foot, goes off. He's replaced by CSKA Moscow winger Ahmed Musa.
52 min: There's a break in play as Emenike receives treatment on what can best be described as an accidental whack in the crown jewels. His eyes will be watering for a while, but he'll be alright.
50 min: Minimum number of goals needed by Mali in the next 39 minutes if they are to stay in this tournament: 3. Number of goals scored by Mali in four-and-a-half matches in this tournament thus far: 3. Hmmm ... the prognosis is not good.
48 min: Nigeria striker Emmanuel Emenike is hacked down by Momo Sissoko, who is lucky to avoid a booking.
46 min: Seydou Keita blows a marvellous chance to pull a goal back for Mali, getting to a low pull-back from the bye-line and shooting wide of the right upright from about 10 yards when it looked easier to score. His grimace of disappointment says it all.
Second half: With heavy rain falling and just 45 minutes to save their bacon, Mali get the second half under way. They've made one change: Bordeaux striker Cheick Diarra is on for West Ham's Modibo Maiga.
Incidentally, having seen a replay of Nigeria's third goal, I can confirm that Emmanuel Emenike's low free-kick took a wicked deflection off Momo Sissoko, sending goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa the wrong way. He had no chance.
Bah! Humble apologies, but I've misidentified the scorer of Nigeria's second goal. It was actually Brown Ideye who slid in to convert the cross to the near post and not Emmanuel Emenike, as I originally stated.
45+2 min: With the last kick of the first half, Seydou Kewita tries to pull a goal back with a free-kick from outside the Nigeria penalty area. The Nigerians show their opponents how to defend a free-kick properly and the referee blows for the interval. The Nigerians gather for a huddle in the middle of the pitch while the Malians troop off to the dressing room looking very fed up indeed.
45 min: It's difficult not to feel sorry for Mali, but that was kamikaze defending. All the players in the defensive wall had to do was stand firm and they would have blocked that ball, but several took a leaf out of the Samir Nasri Big Book of Defending Free-Kicks On The Edge Of The Penalty Area and cost their side a third goal.
GOAL! Mali 0-3 Nigeria (Emenike 43) Emmanuel Emenike takes the free-kick, the wall breaks and the ball ricochets off one of the scattering defenders and loops into the goal past the hopelessly wrongfooted Mamadou Samassa. Mali need a miracle now.
42 min: Nigeria win a free-kick in dangerous territory a few yards outside the Mali box, a tad to the left of the D, for a Momo Sissoko foul on Victor Moses.
41 min: Mali are going to need a major reshuffle in tactics and perhaps personnel at half-time as they've shown little in the face of Nigerian opposition that are threatening to run amok since scoring their second.
38 min: Mali's Modibo Maiga picks up the first yellow card of the game for a deliberate handball.
32 min: Nigeria laucnh a counter-attack and Ogenyi Onanzi goes close to making it 3-0 Nigeria, racing through the centre and trying to chip Mamadou Samassa from distance. The Mali goalkeeper is equal to Onanzi's effort and plucks the ball from the sky as it threatens to evade his grasp. Onanzi is promptly reprimanded by his team-mate Brown Ideye, who was up in support and unmarked on the left flank screaming for a pass.
31 min: Mali's goose isn't completely cooked, but it's sizzling away in the oven and will be ready for carving shortly, by the looks of things. For neutrals, this match is panning out perfectly - having set out their stall defensively, Mali now have to go for this. Of course, by doing so, they'll be leaving themselves very vulnerable at the back.
GOAL! Mali 0-2 Nigeria (Ideye 29) Nigeria double their lead, with Victor Moses turning provider again. Skinning his man down the right flank again, he drilled the ball low and hard towards the near post, where Brown Ideye slid in alongside a defender to bundle the ball past Samassa. I think it might have taken a deflection on the way in, but it would take a Dubious Goals Committee with a heart of stone to chalk that one off Ideye's account.
27 min: Moses, who is having a fine tournament, did brilliantly there. Sprinting down the right flank, he turned Mali defender Adama Tamboura inside-out before nutmegging him and squaring the ball waist-high to the far post. Elderson Echiejile ducked to nod the ball past the helpless Mamadou Samassa and into the bottom left-hand corner - it was a fairly straightforward finish, but one a left-back could easily have messed up.
GOAL! Mali 0-1 Nigeria (Echiejile 24) Nigeria's left-back stoops low to head home at the far post after getting on the end of a superb cross from the irrepressible Victor Moses.
23 min: Mali are playing much as everyone predicted they would before the match, sitting back and letting Nigeria attack them. Mahamadou Samassa is looking very isolated on his own up front, but for all that they've created several chances and are looking very lively.
21 min: John Obi Mikel tries a shot from distance that fizzes no more than a foot or two wide of the upright. Great effort from the Chelsea midfielder, who throws his arms in the air in frustration.
20 min: For Mali, Mahamadou Samassa (a cousin of goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa) picks up the ball on the edge of the final third and tries to go it alone when there was an option open to him out on the left wing. He runs down a cul de sac manned by three Nigeria defenders and is crowded off the ball.
17 min: Corner for Nigeria after a Victor Moses effort ricochets wide through a thicket of Malian defenders. The ball had broken to him on the edge of the Mali penalty area after Mamadou Samassa saved splendidly from a close-range Brown Ideye effort from inside right that was heading inside the far post. That was a marvellous reflex save - the goalkeeper somehow managing to keep out the ball with his outstretched foot. Nothing comes of the corner.
12 min: From about 35 yards out, Momo Sissoko has a popo, but his surface-to-air effort was never going to trouble Enyeama in the Nigeria goal. Over and out.
10 min: Mahamane Traore tries a shot from distance and his wild slash takes a deflection before going out for a corner. Traore sends another beauty towards the near post, where Mali skipper Seydou Keita sends a header flashing across the face of goal and wide. Mali are giving Nigeria plenty to think about here.
9 min: Mahamana Traore sends the ball into the Nigeria penalty area from the corner and his delivery is a beauty. Molla Wague gets on the end of it, but heads over the bar when he should have done better from 10 yards out.
8 min: Splendid play from Mali's Adama Tamboura, who skins his man for pace down the left wing before crossing the ball into the Nigeria penalty area. Godfrey Oboabona heads the ball out for a corner.
6 min: An injury doubt before this game, Momo Sissoko, formerly of Liverpool, gets his first touch on the ball for Mali. He's off to Fiorentina at the end of this tournament, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain.
4 min: Four minutes in and there's been nothing even remotely close to a shot on target for either team. They're prodding and probing, trying to get a feel for each other and the ball. Fousseiny Diawara concedes the first free-kick of the game, the Mali left-back incurring the referee's wrath for a fractionally late challenge deep inside his own half. Nothing comes of it.
2 min: Mali goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa, who is a vision in football hipster pink, takes a goal-kick, launching the ball down the field where it's won by his team-mate Modibo Maiga, from West Ham.
1 min: And we're off, with Nigeria getting the ball rolling in what will, hopefully, be an entertaining match. Needless to say, Jonathan Wilson is in Nelspruit for the other semi-final, where there's far less chance of anyone scoring anything so crass as a goal.
Captains Seydou Keita and Vincent Enyeama meet in the centre-circle for the exchange of pennants and the coin-toss, while their respective team-mates gather for last-minute pre-match huddles.
The teams line up in the tunnel, click-clack their way out on to the pitch and line up for the national anthems. Nigeria's players wear their customary green strip with white trim, while Mali's wear yellow shirts, shorts and socks, with red blazes across their shoulders and thin diagonal green and red stripes across their chests. There looks to be a decent crowd here in Durban, although there are plenty of empty seats too.
Mali: 1-Mamadou Samassa; 2-Fousseiny Diawara, 3-Adama Tamboura, 8-Kalilou Traore, 13-Molla Wague; 6-Momo Sissoko, 17-Mahamane Traore, 21-Mahamadou N'diaye, 12-Seydou Keita; 10-Modibo Maiga, 15-Mahamadou Samassa
Nigeria: 1-Vincent Enyeama; 3-Elderson Echiejile, 22-Kenneth Omeruo, 14-Godfrey Oboabona, 5-Efe Ambrose; 19-Sunday Mba, 17-Ogenyi Onanzi, 10-John Obi Mikel, 11-Victor Moses; 8-Brown Ideye, 9-Emmanuel Emenike
Referee: Backary Papa Gassama (Gambia)
This being a semi-final, there's every chance it will be cagier than the inmates' quarters in the vivisection unit of a research laboratory, but if the match does turn out to be a turkey, it won't be because of a knackered pitch. Today's game is being played on the comparatively manicured sward of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, rather than the fungally destroyed, sand-drenched pudding bowl of the Mbombela Stadium at Nelspruit, where Ghana take on Burkina Faso later.
Weather-wise, it's a fairly hot 25 degrees celsius in Durban this afternoon, with cloudy cover, a 13mph wind, 78% humidity and precipitation levels of 20%. Sounds fairly sweaty and muggy to me.
Despite the heroics of Soumalia Diakite in the penalty shoot-out against South Africa, Mali's first choice goalkeeper Mamdou Samassa looks likely to return to the starting line-up upon his return from suspension, but Mohamed Sissoko and Samba Diabate are injury doubts for the West African side.
Nigeria's manager Keshi is in the fortunate position of having a fully fit squad and midfielder Fegor Ogude is available after a spell out on the naughty step. He could return to a line-up that will almost certainly feature Chelsea midfielders John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses.
Welcome to the Guardian's coverage of this afternoon's first semi-final of the African Cup of Nations at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, writes minute-by-minute reporter from Kings Cross bunker.
This afternoon's contest promises to be an intriguing one, pitting the sophisticated pass-and-move tiki-taka style of two-time tournament winners Nigeria against the more robust, aggressive, bruising tactics of Mali, who are attempting to become champions of Africa for the first time. There's also an element of needle, what with Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi having been sacked by Mali after two years in charge when they exited the ACN at the group stages in 2010.
After securing their passage to the knockout stages at the expense of defending champions Zambia with a late win over Ethiopia in the final group game, the Super Eagles of Nigeria blew this tournament wide open with a shock win over Ivory Coast on Sunday and are favourites to progress this afternoon at the expense of the plain old Eagles of Mali, who made it to the semi-finals courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win over hosts South Africa.
As is customary, football-writing's Jonathan Wilson has been gadding about Africa in his sweat-stained safari suit for the duration of the tournament and you can read his thoughts on the two semi-finals (Ghana take on Burkina Faso later today) in this typically fine article. And if you're taken by Wilson's wordsmithery, why not go on a virtual trolley-dash and buy some or all of his books on upside-down pyramids, goalkeepers, men called Old Big 'Ead, the England football team and other fascinating topics by clicking on this link.
Mali coach Patrice Carteron looks ahead to today's game.