Cameroon took their time but Saudi Arabia finally bowed to the inevitable when Samuel Eto’o scored in the 64th minute to spare the Africans’ blushes. Cameroon were always on the front foot and hoping for a repeat of Germany’s 8-0 win over Saudi in their opening game. But despite having two goals ruled offside, Cameroon created few genuine chances and their finishing was disappointing.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, will count themselves unlucky not to have scored.
The victory leaves Cameroon second in Group E on goal difference behind Germany.
But it leaves the door wide open for Ireland to qualify for the second round if they beat Saudi by 2-0 or more on 11 June.
Cameroon began the match in ominous fashion, with claims for a penalty in the first minute.
Daniel Ngom Kome, the only change to the Indomitable Lions’ line-up which drew 1-1 with the Republic on Saturday, was felled in the area by Mohammed Al Jahani.
1 min: Cameroon denied a penalty after Daniel Ngom Kome is felled in the area
8 mins: Saudi’s Obeid Al Dossary heads over the bar
11 mins: Patrick Mboma’s goal ruled offside
42 mins: Saudi’s Nawaf Al Temyat shoots just wide
46 mins: Lauren’s goal ruled offside
59 mins: Al Hassan Al Yami booked for diving in the area
64 mins: Samuel Eto’o scores for Cameroon
But Norwegian referee Terje Hauge waved away the protestors.
The Saudis took heart from their early let off and in the ninth minute nearly took the lead when Obeid al Dossary headed over the bar from close range from Ibrahim Al Shahrani’s cross.
But the pattern of the game swiftly took shape as Cameroon launched repeated attacks, interspersed with the occasional Saudi raid.
Cameroon’s Patrick Mboma did find the net in the 11th minute after latching onto a through-ball in the box but was ruled offside.
The Africans continued to press, but against the run of play Al Dossary found himself one-on-one with Cameroon’s goalkeeper, only to be flagged belatedly and somewhat harshly for offside.
Cameroon were cruising but not quite in top gear and despite a couple of speculative long-range free kicks from Pierre Wome they created few openings.
But Saudi’s fortunes took a turn for the worse on the half hour mark when dangerman Al Dossary fell awkwardly and was carried off to be replaced by Al Hassan Al Yami.
Saudi’s resistance was remaining intact but Cameroon’s attacks gathered pace inside the last ten minutes of the half.
But again Saudi nearly took a shock lead when Al Yami threaded a ball through for Nawaf al-Temyat, who toe-poked it just wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Cameroon’s Lauren found the net again but was denied as one of his colleagues was rule offside.
Cameroon continued to pour forward after the break and went close on several occasions, notably a long-range strike from Lauren.
Substitute Salomon Olembe, on for Kome, was a catalyst for many of the attacks and his run gave Eto’o Cameroon’s best chance, only to blaze it high and wide.
But Saudi were unperturbed and had a good chance of their own when Al Temyat played through Al Yami, who lifted his shot over the bar.
Al Temyat was again the instigator when Saudi saw their claims for a penalty rewarded with a yellow card for diving for Al Yami after he was put through.
But Saudi’s forays were merely putting off the inevitable and Cameroon finally struck on 64 minutes when Eto’o fired home after racing onto Geremi’s through-ball.
The goal seemed likely to crush Saudi’s spirit but they hung on bravely, weathering several more African storms, and they even created a few chances themselves.
Alioum Boukar, Bill Tchato, Pierre Wome, Rigobert Song, Raymond Kalla, Geremi Njitap, Lauren, Marc-Vivien Foe, Daniel Ngom Kome, Samuel Eto’o, Patrick Mboma
Mohammed al-Deayea, Mohammed al Jahani, Redha Tukar, Abdullah Sulaiman Zubromawi, Fouzi al Shehri, Hussein Sulimani, Ibrahim al Shahrani, Abdulaziz Khathran, Abdullah Alwaked al-Shahrani, Nawaf al-Temyat, Obeid al Dossary