Chile, who have not won a game at the World Cup in 12 matches since they came third on home soil in 1962, qualified with three draws - against Italy, Austria and Cameroon.
"It's mission accomplished," said Chile's top striker, Marcelo Salas. "It took a lot of effort to qualify." His side now meet the favourites, Brazil, in Paris on Saturday.
The African side had the defender Rigobert Song and a substitute, Lavriano Etame, sent off in the second half but they still managed to push the Chileans all the way. The South Americans' path to the second round seemed assured at half-time when they led thanks to a magnificent 21st-minute free-kick over the wall from the midfielder Jose Luis Sierra, originally drafted into the side to provide better service for Salas and Ivan Zamarano. Instead, a powerful header from Patrick Mboma put Cameroon back on terms within four minutes of the first red card and his side threatened to steal a winner on several occasions.
Cameroon's chances of gaining more reward were undone by a lack of discipline. They were already missing Raymond Kalla, sent off against the Italians, and Song was always likely to get into trouble when he caught Salas a glancing blow in the face with his elbow and was dismissed. He had been booked earlier - it had been Song who conceded the free-kick which produced Sierra's effort and his name was in the referee's book as early as the eighth minute.
With or without 22 men on the field, both defences looked shaky for much of a game which could easily have brought several goals for both sides. Once Sierra had struck from outside the area, Salas had a shot kicked off the line by Joseph Ndo. At the other end, Mboma went close on three occasions, Francois Omam Biyik had a goal ruled out for a close offside decision and Cameroon's captain then forced the goalkeeper, Nelson Tapia, into a reaction save as the ball flew fast at his head.
Cameroon had several more chances and the game's finale was played out in the Chilean goalmouth, despite the loss of Etame. Experiencing his first World Cup action, he was on the pitch for barely six minutes before scything down Salas near the touchline a minute from the end of normal time and receiving his marching orders.
Chile had four men booked themselves, including Francisco Rojas, Nelson Parraguez and Moises Villarroel, who will all miss the next match. They must now face the world champions and, while Salas and Zamarano remain a consistent threat, they seem incapable of hanging on to a lead once ahead.
"It's probably the hardest test we could have faced - but I promise Brazil will have a hard time beating us," said the Chilean coach, Nelson Acosta. "We will try and make it a very good game."
CHILE: Tapia (Universidad Catolica); Fuentes (Universidad de Chile), Villarroel (Wanderers); Margas (Universidad Catolica), Reyes (Colo Colo), Rojas (Colo Colo), Acuna (Universidad de Chile), Parraguez (Universidad Catolica), Sierra (Colo Colo), Zamorano (Internazionale), Salas (River Plate). Substitiutes: Cornejo (Universidad Catolica) for Villarroel, 70; Estay (Toluca) for Sierra, 70; Miguel Ramirez (Universidad Catolica) for Rojas, 77
CAMEROON: Songo'o (Deportivo La Coruna); Song (Metz), Mahouve (Montpellier); Njanka (Racing Bafoussam), Wome (Lucchese), Olembe (Nantes), Pensee (Ilhwa Chunma), Ndo (Cotonsport Garoua), Job (Lyons), Omam Biyik (Sampdporia), Mboma (Gamba Osaka). Substitutes: Angibeaud (Nice) for Olembe, 68; Tchami (Hertha Berlin) for Job, 73; Etame (Levante) for Ndo, 83.
Referee: L Vagner (Hungary).Reuse content