On Friday, two first half goals, one by Diafra Sakho in the 12th minute and an own goal by Thamsanqa Mkhize on 38 minutes, helped Senegal secure the vital win. In seven previous meetings barring the now abolished impressive 2-1 victory back in November of 2016, both sides have shared the spoils on three separate occasions, and come Friday night at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, a draw will see Bafana's Russian hopes go up in flames.
Needing to beat Senegal in Polokwane, and again next Tuesday in Dakar, it was always going to take a small miracle or at least a large slice of fortune for South Africa to book their spot at the finals next year.
To their credit the hosts did not allow the setback to get them down and with the industrious Dean Furman keeping things ticking over from the middle of the park, they soon took control of the game, dishing up some speedy and incisive interplay while also showing good appetite to win the ball back.
But Senegal proved too strong, and Mane celebrated an historic victory, with his country's last time at a World Cup finals coming in 2002.
The visitors are now five points ahead of nearest Group D challengers Burkina Faso with one game remaining.
South Africa goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune played with a protective white mask after fracturing a facial bone in a club match last weekend. I think he's a hell of a goalkeeper and the best user of the ball. Khune's outstretched leg denied the Liverpool frontman, but the ball ricocheted off Mkhize and into the net. Sadio Mané played Sakho through on goal with a defence-splitting pass and the West Ham striker slotted the ball past Khune.