With scores locked at 1-1 at full-time at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, neither side could find a winner in extra-time before Mali triumphed 3-1 on spot-kicks.

The hosts started the stronger and May Mahlangu headed wide from a good position before setting up Tokelo Rantie, who was denied by Mali goalkeeper Soumbeila Diakite.

Mali struggled to build momentum in their attacking third and looked most dangerous when Adama Tamboura pushed forward from defence, the left-back seeing his cross-shot sail toward goal only for Itumeleng Kunebut to parry clear.

But South Africa took a deserved lead just after the half hour, Thuso Pala driving play forward before feeding Rantie, who finished the rapid counter by slamming home past Diakite.

A thigh injury cut Rantie's match short and his substitution seemed to swing the momentum in the Mali's favour, the visitors building pressure either side of half-time through chances to Samba Sow and Sigamary Diarra.

South Africa should have gained a stronghold when Rantie's replacement Lehlohonolo Majoro was through on goal, but the striker's poor touch allowed Diakite to sweep away the danger.

The missed chance came back to haunt South Africa just moments later when Mali levelled through captain Seydou Keita.

The former Barcelona midfielder exploited some dreadful marking in his side's penalty area to drift in unmarked and head home Mamadou Samassa's cross.

The goal saw a complete shift in momentum as the visitors sought the killer blow only for Samassa to waste a good chance with the goal gaping.

South Africa thrust forward in the closing stages of normal time but failed to penetrate a sturdy Mali defence, while the two extra halves saw both teams play conservatively and with little attacking impetus.

Penalties were required and South Africa started well with substitute Siphiwe Tshabalala netting the opener of the shootout.

But that was as good as it got for Gordon Igesund's side, who missed their next three spot-kicks while Cheick Diabite, Adama Tamboura and Alain Traore netted their efforts to send Mali through to the final four.