DR Congo defeated Morocco 1 - 0 in their Group C opening fixture, despite finishing with 10 men.
Prior to the tournament proper there were doubts Congo will play in the tournament as disagreements over bonuses put their participation in doubt.
Florent Ibenge's side almost trailed early on at Stade d'Oyem when Mbark Boussoufa struck the bar for Morocco.
However Junior Kabananga put them ahead before substitute Lomalisa Mutambala was booked twice in 16 minutes to set up a nervy ending to the game.
Morocco's Youssef El-Arabi missed with two headed chances late on.
The Leopards were down to nine men for several minutes in the closing stages when they lost defender Gabriel Zakuani to injury having made all of their substitutions.
The Northampton Town player returned for six minutes of injury time, as Ibenge's side saw out pressure to ensure Kabananga's guided finish from 10 yards put them top of their group.
Morocco - managed by two-time Cup of Nations winner Herve Renard - are bottom of the group after the first round of fixtures, as defending champions Ivory Coast and Togo drew 0-0 earlier in the day.
Renard, who guided Zambia to the title in 2012 and Ivory Coast in 2015, has been told by the country's FA that reaching the quarter-finals is a minimum requirement.