A three goal lead at half time put Nigeria on the path of victory only for a spirited second half performance by the Malians saw them reduce the deficit with two quick goals, but the equalizer remained elusive.
Tunisia-based Junior Ajayi scored the opener on 16 minutes by finishing off an assist from Sopuruchi Augustine, to give the Dream Team a deserving lead during the balanced opening minutes.
The Nigerians led by three goals after the break but it was the Malians who resumed the better side with an improved performance from defence to attack.
On 54 minutes, France-based striker Adama Niane launched the Malian comeback by converting a penalty, shooting beyond Dream Team goalie Emmanuel Daniel.
Substitute Abdoulaye Diarra scored the second for Mali on 65 minutes with a cool finish from close range capitalising on sloppiness by the Nigerian rear guard.
‘Les Aiglons’ piled pressure in search of the equalizer but near misses from Niane and Diarra denied them, as Nigeria hung on to the slim victory.
Nigeria will next play Egypt on Wednesday whilst Mali comes up against Algeria.