SÈBASTIEN HALLER was the comeback hero as the Ivory Coast lifted the Africa Nations Cup in front of their own fans.
Nigeria scored first in the thriller on Sunday night.
But ex-West Ham forward Haller, now at Borussia Dortmund, netted a winner for 2-1 nine minutes from time to complete a remarkable personal journey as well.
Haller, 29, had his career put on hold by cancer but returned to triumph on the continent’s biggest stage.
Ivory Coast, who only just scraped through the group stage, bossed the opening exchanges.
Veteran Max Gradel went close with an overhead kick into the side-netting.
Brighton’s Simon Adingra was next to have a go, forcing keeper Stanley Nwabili into a smart stop.
And then, in the 38th minute, Nigeria converted their first chance through William Troost-Ekong.
Ex-England Under-21 star Ademola Lookman’s corner was flicked on to the back post where the ex-Watford defender came charging in to out-jump Serge Aurier and head home.
Fulham defender Calvin Bassey blocked Gradel’s shot on the line after the break before Frank Kessié fluffed a diving header.
IVORY COAST’S ROUTE TO GLORY
How the hosts won Afcon…
Ivory Coast 2 Guinea-Bissau 0 (Group Stage)
Ivory Coast 0 Nigeria 1 (Group Stage)
Equatorial Guinea 4 Ivory Coast 0 (Group Stage)
Senegal 1 Ivory Coast 1, 4-5 pens (Last 16)
Mali 1 Ivory Coast 2 (Quarters)
Ivory Coast 1 DR Congo 0 (Semis)
Nigeria 1 Ivory Coast 2 (finals)
But Kessie made no mistake in the 62nd minute. The ex-Barcelona midfielder, now in Saudi Arabia with Al-Ahli, headed in a free-kick from Adingra.
Haller sent an overhead kick wide before Adingra set him up for an emotional winner, poking home from close range in the 81st minute.
Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba celebrated in delight as he watched from the stands.
Fellow Chelsea icon Salomon Kalou also looked on proudly from the crowd.
And Ivorians around the world are sure to celebrate long into the night.
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