Ivory Coast are one step away from ending 23 years of painful African Cup of Nations memories after sweeping aside Democratic Republic of Congo in the semifinals.
The Elephants have twice lost the final on penalties, in 2006 and 2012, but could be on course for its first title since 1992 after a 3-1 success in Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
Goals from two of its star players — Yaya Toure and Gervinho — were added to by Wilfried Kanon to seal a place in Sunday’s showpiece.
It signaled the end of DR Congo’s fairytale run after it scored four goals in the final half an hour to defeat neighbors Congo in their last eight clash.
Toure de Force
After a modest opening it was Ivory Coast talisman Yaya Toure who made the first decisive impact on the game, as he so often does for his club — English Premier League champions Manchester City.
The 31-year-old pounced on a loose ball after a run from teammate Wilfried Bony — signed by City in January — to lash a fierce shot into the roof of the net.
It was his 19th goal for Ivory Coast and must surely rank of one of his finest.
But having got themselves in front, Ivory Coast switched off moments later to allow DR Congo back into the match.
A looping cross from the right was handled by Eric Bailly, allowing Dieumerci Mbokani to register his third goal of the tournament from the penalty spot.
The striker, who plays for Dynamo Kyiv in Ukraine, should have put his side ahead 10 minutes later but failed to make proper contact with a cross that fell to him at the back post.
It was to prove a costly miss. Ivory Coast immediately gained the upper hand and Gervinho saw his header diverted onto the crossbar by a brilliant Gabriel Zakuani clearance.
But the AS Roma midfielder wasn’t to be denied for long as an error in midfield saw Bony play him into the area, Gervinho slotting neatly into the far corner of the net.
DR Congo came out revitalized after the break and Yannick Bolasie, who plys his trade with Crystal Palace in England’s top flight, forced a fine save from Sylvain Gbohouo after a mazy run.
But it proved to be only a brief flurry as Ivory Coast reasserted its control on the match.
Gervinho and Toure both went close before defender Wilfried Kanon scored the vital third, knocking home from close range after Serge Aurier’s header had been saved by goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba.
Kidiaba made another save from Gervinho as Congo’s desperate attempts to get back into the game left counter attacking gaps for Ivory Coast.
Its players spilled onto the field to celebrate at the end of the match and they can now look forward to a clash in the final with either Ghana or tournament hosts Equatorial Guinea, who play Thursday.