The flames of Malawi opened the score in the second minute through a Garbadinho Mhango effort that caught the Zambian defence flat-footed and also exposed the novice in goalkeeper Emmanuel Mwange.
The flames doubled their lead in the 50th minute through a Gerald Phiri penalty after Benson Sakala hacked down Mhango in the box.
Zambia picked themselves up with Austin Muwowo slotting home from outside the box with second half substitute Emmanuel Chabula benefitting from a selfless Tapson Kaseba pass in the 89th minute to level matters.
In the post-match spot-kicks Malawi crumbled with two of their palyers sending their efforts over the bar while Zambia netted through Bruce Musakanya, Mwila Phiri, Adrian Chama and Chabula,
Zambia will now face Zimbabwe on Wednesday in a potentially mouth-watering clash.
Zimbabwe is using its full strength team that is preparing for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.