Romina Nunez scored the equaliser as Argentina roared back from two goals down to draw 2-2 and deny South Africa a landmark first Women’s World Cup win on Friday.
South Africa were cruising to a first-ever win in five matches at the World Cup after goals by Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana either side of half-time in Dunedin.
But Argentina pulled one back via a stunning Sophia Braun strike in the 74th minute and then drew level five minutes later when Nunez headed home.
South Africa also threw away the lead, and then conceded the decisive goal in the last minute, to lose 2-1 to Sweden in their opening match.
“It is about taking our chances, making better decisions in the final third. If we take our chances we have a different conversation,” coach Desiree Ellis said.
“Today was a great opportunity to put ourselves a step ahead, but it is not all lost.”
Appearing at their fourth World Cup, Argentina have still never won in 11 attempts themselves.
“I am really proud of how we came back, we never gave up. We showed a lot of heart,” said Braun, Argentina’s US-born full-back.
After losing their opening matches in New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa have one point each.
Favourites Sweden and Italy have three points before playing each other in Wellington on Saturday, before a decisive final round of games on August 2.
Banyana Banyana let slip a golden opportunity to break their World Cup duck here having initially overcome the loss of captain Refiloe Jane to injury in the first half.
She was taken off on a stretcher, with Kgatlana taking the armband.
Kgatlana, who recovered from a ruptured achilles tendon to be fit for the World Cup, set up the opener when she ran away from the Argentina defence and squared for Motlhalo to score after half an hour.
The Argentina players stopped tracking back, convinced Kgatlana was offside in the build-up, and the flag did initially come up.
However, the goal was given on review and South Africa were in front.
Paulina Gramaglia hit the bar with a cross-cum-shot for Argentina before Kgatlana put the ball in the net again in first-half stoppage time, but this time the goal was ruled out for offside.
Chances came at either end in the second half but South Africa appeared to be out of sight when Jermaine Seoposenwe’s low centre was turned in by Racing Louisville forward Kgatlana just after the hour.
Argentina looked down and out but they were given hope when Braun beat goalkeeper Kaylin Swart with a fantastic strike, controlling a clearance and letting fly from 25 metres out.
Five minutes later they drew level as Yamila Rodriguez crossed for fellow substitute Nunez to head in and make it 2-2.