Nigeria saved themselves from an embarrassing Cup of Nations exit with a crucial win over Benin in Group B.
Mikel capped a driving performance with a vital goal
The Super Eagles' victory meant they edged past Mali on goal difference to set up an enticing last-eight tie with hosts and west-coast rivals Ghana.
John Obi Mikel headed his side's first goal of the event early in the second half from Osaze Odemwingie's pass.
Mikel then played in Yakubu Aiyegbeni who calmly slotted the Super Eagles' second on 86 minutes to seal the win.
Benin were limited to long shots with Mouritala Ogoubiyi's second-half drive forcing a save from Austin Ejide.
Nigeria had not scored a goal and were lying third in Group B before the start of Tuesday's matches, having only garnered one point from two games at the tournament.
Such was the poor quality of the Super Eagles' play against Ivory Coast and Mali that the team had been dubbed the "Super Chickens" by some critics.
To try and avoid becoming only the second coach not to take the west Africans to the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations, the under-pressure Berti Vogts started with an attacking line-up.
Ikechukwu Uche replaced Newcastle United's Obafemi Martins while Portsmouth's John Utaka started on the right wing, in a three-pronged attack with Everton's Yakubu.
And Yakubu should have scored in the first minute, when the striker broke free in Benin's penalty area, only to flash his shot wide from 15 yards.
Benin's coach, Reinhard Fabisch, said his side were like a bicycle in comparison to Nigeria's Mercedes prior to the game, but the Super Eagles' had failed to click into gear coming into the match.
Nigeria players celebrate their great escape from Group B
The 37-year-old Alain Gaspoz tested Super Eagles' keeper Austin Ejide with 15 minutes gone, when he drove in a low shot from just outside the area.
However, unlike in previous matches, Nigeria's Super Eagles were using their wings to good advantage.
Both Utaka and Yakubu were denied great goal-scoring chances, when left flank crosses from Taye Taiwo and Odemwingie were cut out and cleared.
Despite the support of trumpeting fans driving them and having had more possession, the mis-firing Nigerians had still not had a shot on target with forty five minutes played.
But Nigeria's luck finally changed soon after the restart when Taiwo smashed in a stinging free-kick from 30 yards that was too hot to handle for Chitou Rachad.
Odemwingie was first to react to the Benin keeper's spill and chipped an inch-perfect pass to the far post where Mikel had a simple header to finish on 52 minutes.
Berti Vogts' men had finally scored and though Benin continued to pick away, the Nigerians play was now the more slick and purposeful.
Uche went close to doubling the Super Eagles' lead from 15 yards while substitute Obinna Nsofor headed against the bar from a corner after 65 minutes.
And Nsofor had a glorious chance to put the result beyond Benin when the Chievo man picked up a pass from Yakubu, pulled the ball on to his left foot only to fire his shot woefully wide from close range.
Yakubu was in no such mood though and when he was released with a pass through the centre from Mikel, he made up for his early miss by taking a touch and clinically slotting the ball home with four minutes remaining.
Nigeria: Ejide, Yobo, Nwaneri, Shittu, Taiwo, Etuhu (Eromoigbe 74), Uche, Obi, Utaka (Obinna 52), Odemwingie (Afolabi 90), Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Enyeama, Kanu, Martins, Olofinjana, Makinwa, Emeghara, Okonkwo, Apam, Aiyenugbu.
Goals: Obi 53, Yakubu 86.
Benin: Amoussou, Gaspoz, Adenon, Chrysostome, Adjamossi (Ogunbiyi 46), Boco, Ahoueya, Oketola, Sessegnon (Maiga 84), Omotoyossi, Oumar Tchomogo.
Subs Not Used: Chitou, Koukou, Traore, Rouga, Seka, Djidonou, Seidath Tchomogo, Oladipikpo, Soglo, Ouzerou.