Didier Drogba was dropped to the bench for the first time in his long international career on Saturday, but his Ivory Coast teammates took up the responsibility to win a place in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations with a 3-0 win over Tunisia.
Togo's later 2-0 win over Algeria ensured the Ivorians went through, and meant the 1990 champions became the first nation to be eliminated.
Drogba handed over the captain's armband to Didier Zakora, having failed to impress in his team's opening Group D victory over Togo.
The 34-year-old former Chelsea star had complained of a lack of match fitness before the tournament started in South Africa, having not played since the end of the Chinese league season with his club Shanghai Shenhua in early November.
Part of the Ivorians' "golden generation," Drogba is still waiting for his first AFCON title in six attempts, having lost in the 2012 final after a penalty shootout against Zambia.
However, he did come on as a replacement in the second half for his 92nd international appearance as Yaya Toure and another substitute, Didier Ya Konan, scored late goals to add to Gervinho's first-half opener.
"Why didn't I play Didier Drogba? Because it seemed to me that the 11 players I picked were the best to overcome this good Tunisian side," Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi told reporters in Rustenburg.
"My first satisfaction comes from the victory and the second from the content. We really entered this competition today.
"We caused a lot of problems for this very good Tunisian team and were never really threatened at any point."
Arsenal striker Gervinho put his team ahead in the 21st minute with his second goal of the tournament, but the Elephants needed to wait until two minutes from the end before two-time African player of the year Toure curled in his second in two games.
Ya Konan, also dropped to the bench after starting against Togo, sidefooted home the third goal in the 90th minute.
Togo helped the Ivorians to go through to the knockout phase ahead of the final round of group games by beating Tunisia's north African rivals Algeria.
Captain Emmanuel Adebayor scored the opening goal in the 32nd minute to give his team hope of reaching the last eight for the first time, needing only a draw in Wednesday's match against Tunisia.
The match was held up late in the second half when a goal post was knocked over after Algeria's Adlene Guedioura collided with the netting, meaning 13 minutes of added time were played.
Two minutes into that, Dove Wome struck on the counterattack to end Algeria's hopes of going through.
Adebayor has returned to international action after settling a dispute with national team officials.
Togo did not reach the finals of the 2012 tournament, having been reinstated in the qualifiers after initially being banned.
The squad broke rules by withdrawing before the 2010 event in Angola following a gun attack on the team's bus that left three people dead.