Striker Didier Drogba steered Ivory Coast into the African Nations Cup final with the only goal of the semi-final against Nigeria on Tuesday.
Drogba beat the offside trap to run on to a deep pass from Kolo Toure two minutes into the second half and hit the ball through the legs of Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
It was the third goal of the tournament for the Chelsea striker in a match of limited opportunities for both teams, and inflicted a third semi-final defeat on Nigeria in successive tournaments.
The Ivorians' opponents in Friday's final will be known later on Tuesday when hosts Egypt meet Senegal in Cairo.
Christian Koffi Ndri threatened early with a shot on the Nigerian goal in the opening two minutes and Drogba had a free kick well stopped by Enyeama six minutes later.
Joseph Yobo's header from a corner was the closest Nigeria came to their opponent's goal in a tedious first half, when he climbed above Drogba but missed the target.
At the other end, the Everton defender did well to keep the Chelsea attacker under wraps in the first 45 minutes.
Nigeria brought on Jay-Jay Okocha after conceding the goal, the first appearance of the tournament for their captain, who had been suffering from a thigh injury.
Okocha had two opportunities from free kicks, the first saved by Jean-Jacques Tizie. A long range effort also went narrowly wide in the 63rd minute.
But the Bolton player could not find any decisive passes for a Nigerian attack who were generally starved of ball and found the Ivorian centre back pairing of Toure and Abdoulaye Meite hard to penetrate.
Nigeria will play in Thursday's third place play-off match, in Cairo.