But with Dikwena striker Mwila on a high after the two goals he bagged at the weekend, Zambia still have a strong attack.
It was the first Zambian win over the Algerians in World Cup qualifying after failing to score in four losses stretching back to the mid-1980s. African champion Cameroon and Ghana are also way off the pace in their groups.
The race for qualification for the Russian Federation 2018 World Cup has taken a new twist in Group B where the Super Eagles are placed.
Algeria headed into the World Cup qualifying campaign as one of Africa's top sides, but their hopes of reaching the global showpiece were dented by a testing draw, Nigeria's renaissance and a sluggish start to the campaign.
But even after Zambia's Fashion Sakala was sent off for a second yellow card in the 56th, Algeria couldn't score again despite a man advantage for over 30 minutes.
Mwila hit the upright in the fifth minute before finding the net within 60 seconds, rising between two Algerian defenders to head home a cross from Augustine Mulenga.
Zambia 2nd on 4 points in a group Nigeria was leading on 9 points before Monday evenings away game against 3rd placed Cameroon in Yaounde. Yacine Brahimi's long-range shot put Algeria back in the game early in the second half.
Tunisia replaced the Democratic Republic of Congo as Group A leaders thanks to a 2-1 victory in Rades on the outskirts of Tunis. "We just wanted to get the point and, without the penalty, we get three points". A transfer didn't happen for Mahrez and, with the winger unable to get to Zambia in time, Saturday's qualifier didn't go to plan for Algeria.
Morocco has five points, the Ivory Coast four, Gabon two and Mali one.