PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa -- Wakaso Mubarak came off the bench to score twice and lead Ghana to the semifinals of the African Cup of Nations with a 2-0 win over heartbroken Cape Verde on Saturday.
Wakaso hammered home a 54th-minute penalty and scored into an empty net in injury time after a desperate Cape Verde sent everyone up the other end of the field in search of a tournament-prolonging equalizer.
Wakaso's second goal in the dying seconds finally ended an uplifting first appearance at the cup for the Cape Verdeans, who added to their growing reputation by dominating the second half against the four-time African champion.
Ghana relied on goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda's crucial saves as much as Wakaso's two goals to see it through to the last four for the fourth consecutive time at the African Cup.
"Today we watched a beautiful game of football. Unfortunately the best team is going home tomorrow," Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes said. "So the tournament is going to lose a bit of shine."
Ghana kept its cool under a wave of pressure in the final 35 minutes to set up a semi against the winner of Sunday's Togo-Burkina Faso quarterfinal.
The Black Stars kept alive their hopes of a first title since 1982 after Wakaso took his two opportunities clinically and Dauda pulled off a string of stops.
"On the whole our mental attitude was really good considering the fact that in the second half Cape Verde dominated," Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah said. "We stood up to them. As for what happens next, God will decide."
Despite his initial defiant comment that Cape Verde was better, Antunes softened later in the news conference and congratulated Ghana after it ended his team's memorable journey.
"The result is fair because Ghana won the play," Antunes said.
Wakaso hammered home his second successful spot kick of the tournament soon after halftime after captain Asamoah Gyan was barged over by Carlos Tavares when through.
The Espanyol winger then went skipping away after Ghana cleared a last-second corner and ran over 50 metres unchallenged to score in Cape Verde's unmanned goal with what was just about the last kick of the game.
"What was the key to our victory was the penalty," striker Gyan said. "Although the second half they dominated, we stood firm. It's all about you qualifying and going through. I'll give it to the Cape Verde team ... they've come so far."
After a cagey first 45 in the opening knockout game in South Africa, the penalty sparked immediate life into what should have been a mismatch considering Ghana's history as an African football heavyweight and Cape Verde's non-existent history at any major tournament.
The Cape Verdeans surged forward time after time after Wakaso's penalty, but they just couldn't find a way past Ghana's last line as Dauda's man-of-the-match-winning stops kept it on track for a long-awaited cup success.
Heldon Ramos went close for Cape Verde with his 55th-minute shot which skimmed the left post. Luis Soares forced Dauda to stretch out and deflect a goal-bound effort from the edge of the area away from the top left corner.
Dauda's flying save from Djaniny Semedo in the 82nd was his best as he dived to his right and palmed a powerful drive away with his left hand. He kept out Ramos' free kick, moving quickly to his left to push it away with three minutes of normal time remaining.
At the very least, Cape Verde went down fighting in a breakthrough competition for the team under the charismatic Antunes. Everyone went up for the last-gasp corner, including goalkeeper Josimar Dias, and when Ghana's defence cleared, Wakaso broke away and was able to side-foot into an open goal.