An incredible clash at the Itaipava Arena Pernambuco saw Italy book their place in the Confederations Cup semi-finals with a 4-3 defeat of Japan, who were eliminated from the tournament in heartbreaking fashion.
Needing a draw to stand a chance of making the last four, Alberto Zaccheroni's men got off to an incredible start, racing into a two-goal lead through Keisuke Honda's penalty and Shinji Kagawa's neat finish.
But a spectacular 11-minute turnaround either side of half-time saw Italy score thrice to retake the lead, through Daniele De Rossi's header, Atsuto Uchida's own goal and Mario Balotelli's spot kick.
Shinji Okazaki then drew Japan level with 21 minutes remaining, but despite a late rally by the Samurai Blue, they were finished for good with four minutes remaining by Sebastian Giovinco's strike, as Italy join Brazil as Group A's representatives in the last four.
Cesare Prandelli made two changes to the side that beat Mexico 2-1 Sunday, with Christian Maggio and Alberto Aquilani coming in for Ignazio Abate and Claudio Marchisio, while Japan saw Ryoichi Maeda return to lead the line.
And the Jubilo Iwata forward could have made an instant impact after only five minutes, but did not direct his header well from Kagawa’s inch-perfect cross, as Gianluigi Buffon saved comfortably.
Zaccheroni’s men were the brighter side throughout the opening exchanges, and with 20 minutes on the clock, were handed the chance to take the lead when Buffon conceded a penalty after upending Okazaki inside the area.
The keeper escaped with only a yellow card, but was powerless to stop Honda’s low strike to the bottom right corner from 12 yards, despite guessing correctly.
Balotelli was then incredulous that he was denied a penalty of his own after tussling with Maya Yoshida, but in truth, it was an unlikely claim for an increasingly desperate Italy, who were struggling to match the intensity of Japan.
And with just over half an hour gone, the Samurai Blue made their superiority count once again. Italy failed to clear a ball into the box, and Kagawa was quickly on it, planting a fine half-volley into the corner.
In fact, Honda could have made it 3-0 moments later from a free-kick, but Buffon was on hand this time to make a smart double save to keep the deficit at two.
Italy finally began to wake up as the half neared its end, and it was Andrea Pirlo, as ever, leading their revival, coming close with a wicked free-kick that whistled just over the top.
But the Juventus midfielder was deadly accurate with his delivery from a corner in the 41st minute, picking out De Rossi at the near post and the Roma star thumped home with his head.
Japan were stunned, and nearly capitulated at the end of the half when Emanuele Giaccherini’s bit of trickery saw him evade his marker but crash the ball off the frame of the goal.
But their resistance lasted little more than five minutes after the restart, as Giaccherini’s pass across the face of goal to Balotelli was reached first by Uchida, who ended up turning the ball into his own net.
And two minutes later, it got even more painful for Japan, when Makoto Hasebe conceded a penalty for an extremely harsh handball call, from which Balotelli, as ever, converted coolly from the spot to put Italy in front for the first time.
Eiji Kawashima was then called into action twice in quick succession to deny Giovinco and De Rossi, and his efforts were rewarded at the other end in the 69th minute, when Okazaki headed home from Yasuhito Endo’s free kick.
But not for the first time, Japan were left cursing their luck when an almighty scramble inside the box saw Okazaki hit the post, before Kagawa's headed follow-up bounced off the floor and smacked off the crossbar.
And in the 86th minute, just when Zaccheroni's men looked like stealing the winner, Italy put the game to bed when De Rossi released Marchisio, who in turn squared for Giovinco to stab high into the back of the net.
Yoshida then had a goal disallowed for offside, and Buffon was forced to tip away from Honda as Japan fought or their lives, but time was no longer on their side as the final whistle signalled the end of their campaign.
|5||M. De Sciglio|
|16||D. De Rossi||36' 41'|
|Coach: C. Prandelli|
for A. Aquilani 30'
for C. Maggio 59'
for E. Giaccherini 68'
|Portugal will be better than France - Santos|
|Kruse: I am 100 per cent fit|
|Mexico 3 Trinidad and Tobago 3: Herrera the hero for Ferretti´s men|
|FFA expect Tajikistan match to go ahead despite Dushanbe violence|
|Panama 0 Uruguay 1: Stuani´s late header clinches win|
|CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Review: Jamaica stunned, Canada win|
|Argentina 7 Bolivia 0: Aguero, Messi star in rout|
|Canada 3 Belize 0: Hosts dominate in Toronto|
|Chelsea ´warehousing´ players - PFA chief|
|United States 2 Peru 1: Altidore inspires hosts´ comeback|
|Argentina 7-0 Bolivia: Aguero, Messi & Lavezzi net doubles in rout|
|Del Bosque unmoved by calls for two strikers|
|Deschamps praise for beautiful France|
|Fekir ruptures knee ligaments|
|Italy v Bulgaria: Conte warns against complacency|
|Euro 2016 Qualifiers Review: Germany top Group D, Northern Ireland edge closer|
|Low: Three points most important|
|Northern Ireland on the verge of a ´magnificent achievement´ - O´Neill|
|Scotland need something against Germany - Strachan|
|Portugal 0 France 1: Late Valbuena set-piece clinches deserved win|
|Faroe Islands 1 Northern Ireland 3: O´Neill´s men edge closer|
|Germany 3 Poland 1: Gotze sends world champions top|
|Gibraltar 0 Republic of Ireland 4: Irish hopes reignited|
|Djibouti 0 Togo 2: Saintfiet´s side make it two wins from two|
|Cyprus v Belgium: Benteke boost for Wilmots´ men|
|Roma youngster faces lengthy lay-off|
|United hit back at Perez barb over De Gea saga|
|Georgia 1 Scotland 0: Strachan´s men succumb to Tbilisi hoodoo|
|Hodgson prepared to blood new players|
|Porto invite Euro elite to help raise millions for migrants|
|Dortmund legend Dede backs Tuchel to succeed|
|Robben out for four weeks|
|Turkey v Netherlands: Terim expecting hostile atmosphere for crunch clash|
|Portugal 0-1 France: Valbuena strikes late to sink Ronaldo & Co|
|Wales v Israel: Euro 2016 beckons for Coleman´s history boys|
|Gala: No extra payment for Grosskreutz|
|Increase Bundesliga´s TV rights or be left behind - Rummenigge|
|Kane: I´m no flash in the pan|
|Perez: United showed inexperience in De Gea saga|
|Milligan: Socceroos wary of Tajikistan|
|Conte wants more players like Pelle|
|OFC World Cup Qualifying Review: Samoa to meet Tahiti in next round|
|Krychowiak stayed at Sevilla because of Emery|
|I never considered Bayern exit - Gotze|
|Balotelli ´not in good condition´, Milan must improve - Mihajlovic|
|Robben slams ´stupid´ Martins Indi|
|Robben laments injury blow|
|Euro 2016 Qualifiers Review: Bale edges Wales closer, Iceland dent Netherlands´ qualification hopes|
|De Bruyne relieved to ´boss´ Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|Blind furious after nightmare debut|
|Coleman sees shades of Charles in Bale winner|
|Conte only concerned about Italy winning|
|Mauritania v South Africa: SAFA to investigate Masilela no-show|
|AFC World Cup Qualifying Review: Qatar hit 15 in Bhutan rout|
|Belgium 3 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1: De Bruyne shines in straightforward victory|
|Cyprus 0 Wales 1: Bale winner takes Wales one step closer|
|Netherlands 0 Iceland 1: Sigurdsson winner caps difficult first game for Blind|
|Italy 1 Malta 0: Pelle spares wasteful Azzurri|
|Balotelli stars in Milan friendly win|
|Bhutan thrashed 15-0 by Qatar in qualifier|
|Rwanda v Ghana: Gyan doubt gives hosts hope|
|Tanzania v Nigeria: Enyeama out of AFCON qualifier|
|Valdes and Berahino included in Premier League squads|
|Costa Rica v Brazil: Dunga´s men return after Copa disappointment|
|Spain v Slovakia: Azpilicueta eyeing important revenge|
|Adebayor left out of Tottenham squad list for league and Europe|
|San Marino v England: Place in history books beckons for Rooney|
|Germany can cope with Reus absence - Low|
|Bayern offer aid to refugees in ´training camp´|
|BREAKING NEWS: Welbeck ruled out for months after knee surgery|
|South Korea 8 Laos 0: Son leads the way in rout|
|Australia 5 Bangladesh 0: Socceroos surge to emphatic win|
|Japan 3 Cambodia 0: Hosts pick up first qualifying win|
|Rudiger aiming to nail down Euros spot after Roma move|
|Melo happy to join Inter at last|
|Hernandez thanks Ferguson after United departure|
|Chung: AFC has compromised FIFA election|
|Wales the new best of British|
|Reus out of Germany qualifiers|
|Chile v Paraguay: Vidal missing for Copa champions|
|Ghedin: Anything is possible for Malta|
|Pogba will be worth €100m - Marotta|
|England can win Euro 2016 - Hodgson tells players|
|Conte unsure over Balotelli future|
|Argentina - Bolivia Preview: Mascherano backs 'very special' Messi|
|Portugal - France Preview: Deschamps aiming to correct mistakes|