Greece nearly pulled off another impossible comeback again, but 10-man Costa Rica just about managed to hold their nerves before prevailing in a tense penalty shootout in their can't-blame-you-if-you-forget-it-immediately last 16 encounter of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Recife on Sunday.
Costa Rica were sitting pretty courtesy Bryan Ruiz's strike early in the first half, and looked on course for a quarterfinal against the Netherlands, despite losing Oscar Duarte a little while after the opener. However, on a day of late goals Greece pulled level in the first minute of second half stoppage time, before, like Holland did against Mexico, nearly stealing it all right at the death.
Ruiz's strike in the 52nd minute was heaven-sent in a match which was turgid, tight and forgettable, with neither team able to do anything worthwhile going forward in the first half. However, the Costa Rica skipper's astute finish from the edge of the box off a pass from Christian Bolanos opened up the possibility of the game being a little more exciting, and that likelihood only increased when Duarte saw red after picking up his second yellow card following a tackle on Joe Cholevas.
Costa Rica had felt they had a perfectly legitimate penalty turned down just prior to that dismissal, with Vasilis Torosidis seemingly handling the ball inside the box, but in a sudden turn of events, Greece got back into the game.
Despite spaces being created following Duarte's dismissal, Costa Rica looked like they were holding on and just when those arms were on their way to being raised to the heavens in celebration, Greece struck the body blow.
Keylor Navas, who was in top form, making a couple of decent saves in the first half, parried an initial effort from Theofanis Gekas, but the ball fell perfectly to Sokratis Papasatathopoulos to thump home from 12 yards.
Greece nearly made it 2-1 and broke Costa Rican hearts soon after, but Kostas Mitroglou's header was brilliantly turned over the bar by Navas.
With Greece playing with a man advantage, they were always going to be the favourites to find the winner in extra time, and if not for Navas, Costa Rica would have been packing their bags. The goalkeeper first kept out Lazaros Christodoulopoulos with a wonderful save after Greece looked destined to win it following a 5 on 2 break, before Mitroglou was denied against by Navas right at the death.
The penalty shootout was always going to be anybody's to win, and Costa Rica showed a lot more gumption, putting away all of their spotkicks, with Gekas' miss, courtesy another outstanding save from Navas, giving the Central Americans a dream victory and an even dreamier quarterfinal with Holland.
"This is a big, big result," Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said. "Words can't describe how I feel right now. It's never easy playing with ten men, and even less so against opponents like that in a World Cup match.
"We looked secure throughout the game, and we were full of confidence in the shoot-out, and that goes for the goalkeeper, who was amazing, and the penalty takers, who were just perfect."