DR Congo put their difficult Africa Cup of Nations build-up behind them to beat Morocco in their Group C opening fixture, despite finishing with 10 men.
Florent Ibenge’s side, who went on strike over unpaid bonuses on Friday, almost trailed early on at Stade d’Oyem when Mbark Boussoufa struck the bar.
Junior Kabananga put them ahead before substitute Lomalisa Mutambala was booked twice in 16 minutes.
Morocco’s Youssef El-Arabi missed with two headed chances late on.
The substitute glanced wide from a set-piece delivery and then met a cross cleanly to force a parry from DR Congo keeper Ley Matampi.
The Leopards were down to nine men for several minutes in the closing stages when they lost defender Gabriel Zakuani to injury having made all of their substitutions.
The Northampton Town player returned for six minutes of injury time, as Ibenge’s side saw out pressure to ensure Kabananga’s guided finish from 10 yards put them top of their group.
Morocco – managed by two-time Cup of Nations winner Herve Renard – are bottom of the group after the first round of fixtures, as defending champions Ivory Coast and Togo drew 0-0 earlier in the day.
Renard, who guided Zambia to the title in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015, has been told by the country’s FA that reaching the quarter-finals is a minimum requirement.
But despite managing 62% of possession and 15 shots against a side eight places above them in Fifa’s rankings, they were unable to turn their numerical advantage into a positive start.