This Netherlands side might be a lot different from the one that fell at the final hurdle from winning their first World Cup title in 2010, but the protagonists remain the same. On the brink and staring at a last 16 exit to Mexico, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben came to the fore for their country like only they can to inspire Holland to the most stunning of comebacks.
It looked all over for Holland in the scorching heat of Fortaleza – so hot that it demanded the first cooling breaks at this World Cup -- with Louis Van Gaal's men unable to find the equaliser after Giovani Dos Santos had given Mexico the lead with a wonderful goal early in the second half. However, just when the Mexico players and fans were dreaming of their first quarterfinal in 28 years, it all turned into an absolute nightmare.
First came a true finish from Sneijder on 88 minutes to make it 1-1, before Robben's trademark blink-and-you-miss-it run, earned the Netherlands a penalty in stoppage time, which substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar duly dispatched in some style to take his team to the last eight and leave Mexico deflated, defeated and in despair.
With temperatures sizzling at well over 30, the game was always going to be a slow one and so it proved to be with neither team really hitting their straps in the first 45.
Netherlands, yet again, tried to invite Mexico pressure so that they could use Robben's pace on the counter-attack, but there were quite a few phases of play when they did have plenty of the ball and just did not know what to do with it.
Holland were also thrown a little, inside the first nine minutes, with Nigel De Jong forced to come off with an injury, which meant Louis Van Gaal had to revert back to a 5-3-2 formation, with Bruno Martins Indi coming in, from an initial 4-3-3.
Slow and steady build-up does not suit this Holland team, and every time Mexico sat behind the ball, the Netherlands struggled to break then down. The couple of times they did get through, it was when there was space in behind, or with a ball over the top, but Robben and Robin Van Persie just could not find the right pass or strike to trouble Guillermo Ochoa, who was just ridiculous yet again.
Mexico definitely looked the better team going forward, and Jasper Cillessen was the much busier of the two goalkeepers. The Dutch custodian, who looked uncomfortable a couple of times, had to be on hand to quell Carlos Calcido and Giovani Dos Santos.
While Mexico shaded the first 45, it was the Netherlands who could have easily gone 1-0 up just before halftime, with Robben denied a penalty. Rafael Marquez failed to latch onto a pass from Francisco Rodriguez, allowing Van Persie to slip in Robben, who went into the penalty area at full tilt before falling down under the combined challenges of Marquez and Hector Moreno.
Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca waved play on, even though replays showed there was contact from both Marquez and Moreno, who had to be substituted after injuring himself making that challenge, on the Dutch forward – Robben's reputation probably going against him there.
Mexico took full advantage of that reprieve, jumping into the lead just three minutes into the second half, with Dos Santos scoring a brilliant opener, firing one low and hard into the bottom corner from 22 yards with his favourite left foot for his first international goal in two years.
Holland seemed to wake up after conceding that goal, and as Mexico sat deeper and deeper protecting their lead, Holland poured forward time and again. Robben, very much in the periphery until then, was suddenly active and so was Sneijder, while Memphis Depay came in and looked to make an impact again as Van Gaal rejigged that lineup again to a back-four.
However, this Mexico defence is not solid just because of their back-five, they currently have a goalkeeper in Ochoa, who is in the form of his life. Ochoa, the hero from the 0-0 draw against Brazil at this same stadium, pulled off a stupendous save to deny Stefan De Vrij from notching his second goal of the World Cup.
Robben's corner seemed destined to head into the back of the net after De Vrij's intervention, but Ochoa's showed tremendous reflexes to push the ball onto the post and into safety. The Netherlands cranked up the pressure, with Robben time and again proving to be a thorn, forcing another brilliant save from Ochoa.
While Robben came to life after the Dutch went a goal down, Robin Van Persie was almost invisible, struggling to cope with the heat, and Van Gaal was left with no choice really but to bring on Huntelaar.
However, as Van Persie went bust, Robben had his thrust blunted, it was the third of Netherland's big three who pulled his team back with a thump. Netherlands' tenth corner of the game finally brought some dividends, with the ball headed back by Huntelaar to Sneijder outside the area, allowing the No.10 to stroke the ball into the net two minutes from time.
With the cooling break and substitutions, six minutes of added time were still there for the Netherlands to find the winner, and Robben, who else, stepped up in some style. A weaving, dazzling run resulted in Marquez, the most experienced player in green, sticking a leg out – Robben did not need a second invitation to go down and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot either.
In stepped Huntelaar, making absolutely no mistake, slamming the ball into the corner after sending Ochoa the wrong way to cue Oranje delirium.