The two quarterfinal ties at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in the South Africa's North West Province produced just three goals and the expected tight tussles as Zambia won 2-1.
The Basotho then launched into joyous celebration after goalkeeper Likano Mphuthi saved the decisive spotkick after the shootout had gone to sudden death to ensure only their second-ever semifinal appearance in the annual southern African championship.
It was a 5-4 penalty shootout victory for the tiny mountain kingdom who now play either Swaziland or Zimbabwe in Wednesday's semi.
The nature of their win, however, did not impress coach Mpitsa Marai.
"I was hoping we'd play better than our draw in Tanzania last month in the Nations Cup qualifiers but I saw a lot of mistakes and we are going to have to go back to the drawing board," he began. "We have good players, some are experienced with 50 to 70 caps but they did play like that."
Zambia were 2-0 up and cruising after 70 minutes following goals from Brian Mwila and Justin Shonga, but made life difficult for themselves in the final 20 minutes. They gave away a penalty only for Thabang Sesinyi, who had just come on as a substitute, to have had his shot saved by Allan Chibwe.
"He should not have taken the penalty, he was just arriving on the pitch. Mosha Gaolaolwe was our designated penalty taker and I'll be talking to the players about that," said Botswana coach Boyo Radipotsane afterwards.
Botswana then did pull a goal back with just over 10 minutes to go when Kabelo Seakanyeng fired home, also with the help of a deflection, and pushed hard for an equaliser.
However, Zambia, whose team at this tournament is devoid of foreign-based players plus the 12 who are competing in CAF continental competitions this weekend, held out for a narrow victory.
"We need to build a bigger pool for our national team because we've slipped since we won the African Nations Cup in 2012," said coach Wedson Nyirenda.
Zambia next meet either defending champions South Africa or Tanzania, who were to play yesterday.