Spain overcame Iberian rivals Portugal 1-0 to book their place in the World Cup quarter finals.
David Villa was the hero once again, finishing off a neat move with a shot that went in off the underside of the bar.
The breakthrough was a huge relief for the favourites, who had struggled up to that point to break down their neighbours.
Vincente del Bosque’s team now face Paraguay in Johannesburg on Saturday evening. Few would bet against them reaching the last four.
This clash between two rivals was at its heart a clash between two very different styles of football.
Within five minutes of kick off, it was clear how this knockout game would ebb and flow.
Spain dominated possession - as they so often seem to do-and had to find a way past a solid and well drilled Portugal defence.
For much of this game, Carlos Quieroz's game plan worked a treat, as chances for the European champions were at a premium.
Fernando Torres sparkled initially, testing Eduardo with an ambitious effort, but he faded as the game went on. Yet again he was substituted before the hour.
Like many of the Premier League’s leading lights, he has failed to perform at his best in South Africa, and del Bosque must decide whether he should persevere with his out of sorts front man.
Portugal weren't entirely on the back foot, and could lay claim to having the better opportunities of a cagey first period.
Cristiano Ronaldo had two free kicks saved by Iker Casillas, the second with decidedly less assurance than the first.
The Real Madrid goalkeeper palmed the ball up into the air and had to rely on defender Gerard Pique to clear.
Casillas looked anything but composed, and another moment of uncertainty created a chance for Portugal.
The once again impressive Fabio Coentrao broke forward and set up Tiago, whose rasping shot was not gathered by Casillas. Fortunately for Spain, he was able to punch the ball clear before Hugo Almeida could get his head on it.
Six minutes before half time, Almeida managed to get on the end of Simao’s cross, only to send it wide. He should have scored.
The second half brought about more of the same.
Andres Iniesta was being denied time and space on the ball, and Villa was struggling to penetrate the Portuguese defence.
Undeterred, they continued to play their neat passing game, or tici-taca, looking for that one slip or mistake to pounce upon.
Fernando Llorente entered the fray in place of Torres after 59 minutes, and the change seemed to invigorate Spain.
Llorente should have made an immediate impact.
The Athletic Bilbao player was in reams of space in the box when Sergio Ramos’ cross reached him, yet he could only direct his header straight at the goalkeeper.
If it had been either side of Eduardo he would have been celebrating a dream introduction to the game.
It mattered little as Villa gave his team the lead with his fourth goal of the tournament minutes later.
Iniesta touched the ball off to Xavi, and his cute flick found Villa free in the box. His first shot was repelled but he kept his composure, scoring via the underside of the crossbar on the rebound.
With the defence breached, Portugal had to open up and attack. The concept seemed almost alien to them, and Spain looked the more likely to add to their lead.
Sergio Ramos very nearly did just that with a shot that Eduardo managed to divert around his post.
Llorente also had another header that flashed wide.
If Portugal were to find a way back into this match, it was likely to come from Ronaldo.
However, the winger was always on the periphery, as he was for the majority of the tournament.
He failed to dazzle, and as time ticked down on the end of his side’s World Cup campaign he fired in a weak shot out of sheer frustration that went well wide.
In the 89th minute, Portugal’s misery was compounded when Ricardo Costa saw red for catching Joan Capdevilla with a flailing arm.
The contact appeared minimal. Nevertheless, the defender had to deal with his bitter fate, and he was soon joined by his dejected team mates.