World Cup 2010 - USA win group after late winner
Donovan slammed a loose ball into the net from close range after the outstanding Algerian goalkeeper Rais Ouheb M'Bolhi failed to hold Jozy Altidore's cross.
Clint Dempsey had a goal wrongly ruled offside in the first half and hit a post in the second period, but the USA kept pushing and were rewarded deep into injury time by Donovan's strike.
USA and Algeria had never met before in international climes.
The Americans thumped Egypt 3-0 in the Confederations Cup in June 2009. That was the last time they faced an African team in a competitive match, but this was more important.
How the first period remained goalless was a mystery.
USA were fortunate not to fall behind on six minutes when Rafik Djebbour hit the bar with a volley from inside the area.
The American response was instant as Hercules Gomez let fly from distance. The ball dipped and swerved, but M'Bolhi did well to nudge it past a post.
Dempsey had the ball in the net from Gomez's cross on 25 minutes, but he was strangely ruled offside when the Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra was clearly playing him on.
A similar decision deprived the US a late winner against Slovenia in their previous group match, but they only had themselves to blame on 36 minutes.
A minute after M'Bohli produced a brave stop to halt a Dempsey toepoke, Donovan managed to chip the ball over the Algeria keeper.
Altidore looked poised to pop the ball in the net, but rushed his volley to wallop yards over with the goal gaping.
England and Slovenia were heading through as the table stood at half-time with the US and Algeria occupying the bottom two spots in the group.
USA needed a goal and they launched a ferocious attack on the Algerian goal as the African side became restricted to counter attacks.
Altidore played in Dempsey on 56 minutes, who hit the inside of a post before knocking the rebound wide.
With the Algerian keeper M'Bohli in exceptional form, it looked like time would run out for USA until Donovan struck and sent the American fans into raptures of delight.
Algeria were reduced to 10 men with seconds left when Antar Yahia was sent off for a second yellow having clearly lost his discipline, but Algeria's position as the bottom team in Group C had already been decided.
It was the first time the USA had kept a clean sheet in 18 first-round matches, a run that stretched back to a 1-0 win over England in 1950.
USA v Algeria
1st Half Goals 0-0
Shots on Target 8-3
Shots off Target 11-13
Blocked Shots 1-3
Yellow Cards 2-2
Red Cards 0-1
Passing Success 78.6%-78.6%
Tackles Success 78.6%-78.6%
Territorial Advantage 53.7%-46.3%