NIGERIA scored three goals in a blistering 20-minute first-half spell as they routed Mali 4-1 to reach the final of the African Nations Cup for the first time since 2000 on Wednesday.
After Mali settled first and threatened to take an early lead, Nigeria clicked into gear with goals from Elderson Echiejile after 25 minutes, Brown Ideye in the 30th minute and an own goal from Mali defender Momo Sissoko just before halftime.
Substitute Ahmed Musa, who replaced the outstanding Victor Moses after 53 minutes added the fourth shortly after coming on when he beat the offside trap and slipped the ball through goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa's legs.
Emmanuel Emenike celebrates after scoring
Mali, who famously came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with Angola in the opening game of the 2010 finals, never looked like repeating that feat but did score a consolation goal when Cheick Diarra fired home in the 75th minute.
In Sunday's final, Nigeria will meet the winners of the second semi between Ghana and Burkina Faso being played later at Nelspruit.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi is one victory from becoming the second man to win the tournament as player and coach but, before the goal onslaught, Mali had the better of play and created three good chances inside the first 15 minutes.
Modibo Maiga and Seydou Keita both had headers that went close and Sissoko unleashed a thunderous effort from 30 metres out that went just over Vincent Enyeama's crossbar.
But Nigeria, with John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onanzi and Moses asserting themselves in midfield, took control of the game with devastating effect.
Ideye went close to opening the scoring with a fierce angled drive which Mali keeper Samassa did well to save with his foot before Mikel shot narrowly over the bar in the 22nd minute from 30 metres.
Nigeria's players celebrate their third goal against Mali
Nigeria made the breakthrough when Moses turned and nutmegged Mali defender Adama Tamboura wide on the left and sent in a low cross which Nigerian defender Echiejile, unmarked, stooped to head home.
Five minutes later, Ideye doubled their lead from another Moses cross, bundling the ball home with Samassa powerless to prevent him scoring.
Onanzi came close to making it three when he tried to lob Samassa two minutes later and Nigeria did not have to wait long for the third goal.
Gambian referee Backary Papa Gassama awarded Nigeria a free kick on the edge of the box just before halftime and Emenike's powerfully struck effort took a big deflection off Sissoko leaving Samassa watching the ball go into his net.
Malian fans sit in front of a television screen in the centre of Bamako, as they watch the game unfold
That effectively killed the game as a contest and although Mali coach Patrice Carteron replaced Modibo Maiga with Cheick Diarra up front, the damage was already done.
It got worse for Mali after 56 minutes when Musa stayed onside, advanced on Samassa and scored by slipping the ball through his legs.
Mahamadou Samassa, the cousin of the Mali keeper, had a good chance for a consolation goal before the team did finally score but it was too little too late.
Burkina Faso edge Ghana
BURKINA Faso reached the African Nations Cup final for the first time with a dramatic 3-2 penalty shoutout win over Ghana on Wednesday after their semi-final ended 1-1 following extra time.
They clinched the victory after Emmanuel Agyemang Badu missed Ghana's third penalty after a weak shimmy and shot.
The Burkinabe will be without the influential Jonathan Pitroipa in Sunday's final against Nigeria after he was sent off three minutes from the end of extra time for a second yellow card.
Ghana went ahead after 13 minutes when Mubarak Wakaso scored his third penalty of the tournament after Burkina Faso defender Paul Koulibaly was harshly judged to have fouled Christian Atsu.
Aristide Bance and coach Paul Put celebrate making it to Sunday's final
Burkina Faso equalised after exactly an hour when Aristides Bance fired home low and hard from the edge of the penalty area.
The shootout started badly for Ghana after Isaac Vorsah sent his spot kick wide and Burkina Faso kept the upper hand as Bakary Kone, Henri Traore and Bance all scored.
Ghana were fortunate to be awarded their 13th-minute penalty by Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi when there appeared little or no contact between Koulibaly and Atsu even though Atsu went to ground after they challenged for a high ball.
Wakaso made no mistake with his fourth goal of the tournament and the third from the spot, placing the ball well out of the reach of the diving Daouda Diakite.
The Burkinabe responded well to the early setback with Jonathan Pitroipa a constant menace to the Black Stars' defence.
They crafted a superb opening after 31 minutes, too, when a pinpoint long ball from midfield was initially brilliantly controlled by Prejuce Nakoulma who then wasted his good work by blasting the ball high over the Ghana bar.
Asamoah Gyan and Isaac Vorsah react look on after the final whistle
Burkina Faso came far closer to an equaliser after 53 minutes when the distinctive Bance, with his dyed blond hair, powered a header goalwards from a corner, only to see goalkeeper Fatau Dauda clutch it from under the bar on the line.
Five minutes later, with Burkina Faso pushing up in search of an equaliser, Atsu set up Asamoah Gyan for a chance to double Ghana's lead but his shot rebounded away off a post, and that proved costly because, minutes later, Burkina Faso equalised.
Bance was not to be denied a second time and he made no mistake with his next opportunity after an hour when he fired home from close range to equalise.
Both teams went close to a winner which never came in the last half hour, forcing the game into extra time, when Bance missed a real opportunity to win the game, but blasted high over the bar in the 104th minute.
Burkina Faso did have the ball in the net just before the extra-time break, but the goal was disallowed because of a foot up on the goalkeeper from Nakoulma. Bance, who had eight shots in all, saw a second effort saved off the line after 112 minutes by defender Harrison Afful.