The Flames were left searching their soul after they went down 3-2 to ChadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Sao in a tautly compelling encounter that drove the home fans through a bewildering gut of emotions at Idriss Mahamat Ouya Stadium in NÃ¢â‚¬â„¢djamena.
Malawi must win the return leg in June to qualify for the next round, a task that is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.
Sadly though, the two-goal hero, Nyondo, was carried off the pitch after being injured by one of the missiles that were thrown by the home fans in protest against the second goal which they felt was scored from an offside position.
Despite the loss, Flames coach Kinnah Phiri insisted that the narrow loss was a good result.
“It is a good result since we have a two-away goal advantage.
“We will finish them off at home and we will qualify for the second round,” Kinnah declared.
In a match monitored on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), Chad led by the unstoppable Djime Leger, Chad went for the FlamesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ throats from the off and had four corners in 20 minutes.
The Flames survived a big scare in the 17th minute. A communication breakdown between sweeper James Sangala and goalkeeper Simplex Nthala nearly led to an own goal and relief was the prevalent emotion in the Flames camp as the ball rolled into touch.
But they could not stand the heat for so long as Chad drew first blood in the 38th minute through France-based Mahamat Labbo with a stunning shot from the left flank following a mistake by Tawonga Chimodzi.
The Flames cancelled the lead four minutes later, when stand-in captain Moses Ã¢â‚¬ËœLubaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ ChavulaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s curling shot from the left was handled in the box by defender Cesar Abaya. Nyondo converted the spot-kick with characteristic composure.
It was NyondoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first international competitive goal in four years. He last scored in 2008 in the 3-0 win over Djibouti in a joint World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
But the FlamesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ relief was short-lived as Egypt-based Leger netted the second for Chad in added time of the first-half.
Kinnah who started with a defensive 4-5-1 formation, was forced to make a change at half-timeÃ¢â‚¬â€throwing in striker Chiukepo Msowoya for Chimodzi in an attempt to beef up attack.
In the 54th minute, Leger claimed the third goal for the hosts. But the Flames never gave up. They turned on the heat following the introduction of Spain-based Robin Ngalande who replaced rookie John Banda.
From then on, Chad lived dangerously on the edge as the Flames, led by Ngalande and Chiukepo, turned on a sparkling display that paid dividend in the 63rd minute.
Ngalande surged forward with swashbuckling verve and scooped the ball deliciously into the path of Nyondo who provided the final flourish with total ease.
Nyondo was replaced by Joseph Kamwendo following his injury and the Flames fought for an equaliser in the closing stages, but Chad stood firm.
Flames line-up was as follows: Nthala, Limbikani Mzava, Chavula (C), Foster Namwela, Sangala, Frank Banda, Tawonga Chimodzi (Chiukepo Msowoya), John Banda ( Ngalande), Dave Banda, Chimango Kaira, Nyondo (Joseph Kamwendo).