Egypt fans had to wait until stoppage time – the 95th minute of the game – before Salah’s emphatic penalty sent the country into raptures as they secured their place in next year’s tournament for the first time since 1990.
The speedy forward chipped Egypt into the lead just after the hour mark, lifting a tidy finish over the onrushing Congo goalkeeper.
However, Congo striker Arnold Bouka-Moutou stunned the hosts in the 88th minute, threatening to put their celebrations on hold with a late equaliser.
But in the fifth minute of injury time, Egpyt were awarded a dramatic late spot-kick that Salah converted with aplomb to cap an incredible night for the seven-time African Cup of Nations champions.
It was Salah’s 32nd – and undoubtedly most important – international goal, continuing his sparkling run of form since joining Liverpool in the summer.
The 25-year-old now has nine goals and an assist in 14 games since arriving at Anfield from Roma in a deal worth £36.9m.
“He definitely made history tonight,” wrote one viewer.
“Everyone in Egypt will forever think of him as a legend.”