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'
|South Korea 2 Iraq 0: Kim books sixth Asian Cup final place|
|Sturridge could return against Chelsea|
|Zinnbauer backs Drobny as Hamburg first choice|
|Drogba targeting Chelsea stay|
|Postecoglou confident Australia squad can progress|
|UEFA does not have the courage to run against me - Blatter|
|Foster: Anichebe unplayable|
|Australia v UAE: Japan´s absence a boon for Asian Cup hosts|
|Milan v Lazio: Injury-hit visitors aiming for back-to-back wins|
|Trezeguet confirms retirement|
|No ´major problems´ with Nicolas Frey´s head wound|
|Strootman injury not "serious" - Garcia|
|No Paraguay, USA for retiring Riquelme|
|Saint-Etienne did not try to play football - Blanc|
|Primeira Liga Review: Sporting move within one point of Porto|
|La Liga Review: Parejo downs Sevilla, Resino starts with a point|
|Serie A Review: Juve go seven points clear as Roma draw again|
|Ligue 1 Review: Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon make Marseille pay for slip-up|
|Burkina Faso coach puts AFCON exit down to bad luck|
|Saint-Etienne 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Ibrahimovic scores in repeat performance|
|Shenaishil optimistic despite Kasim absence|
|Walcott: Goal has been a long time coming|
|DR Congo v Tunisia: Leekens warns against complacency|
|Congo 2 Burkina Faso 1: Thievy helps send 2013 runners-up crashing out|
|Gabon 0 Equatorial Guinea 2: Balboa and Iban put hosts through|
|McCarthy and Distin on road to recovery|
|Gil has hit the ground running - Lambert|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax and Feyenoord lose ground after dour draw, Eagles secure big win|
|Wenger confirms Gabriel move is imminent|
|Eto´o presented to Sampdoria fans|
|Cape Verde v Zambia: Victory a must for 2012 winners to avoid elimination|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders|
|Mancini upbeat despite ´cruel´ late defeat|
|Pogba revelling in rich vein of form|
|Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy|
|Defour dismissed after Standard Liege banner taunt|
|Allardyce relieved with scrappy West Ham win|
|Sturridge ´happy man´ after return to Liverpool training|
|Inter 0 Torino 1: Moretti ends unbeaten run for top-four hopefuls|
|Juventus 2 Chievo 0: Pogba inspires victory as leaders march on|
|Bristol City 0 West Ham 1: Super sub Sakho sinks City|
|Hughes in talks over new Stoke deal|
|Delph signs new contract|
|Chelsea v Liverpool: Mourinho demands League Cup response|
|Football League Preview: Derby eye top two, Cambridge back to reality|
|Nani not giving up on Old Trafford career|
|Perth Glory 3 Melbourne Victory 3: Leaders stage two-goal late comeback|
|Neymar: Barca have no interest in Real results|
|Milan defender Mexes apologises for red card|
|South Korea v Iraq: Strange lead-up for Shenaishil´s men|
|Lazio´s Djordjevic thanks well-wishers ahead of ankle surgery|
|Iran´s Asian Cup appeal dismissed by AFC|
|Cech urges Chelsea to clean up FA Cup exit ´mess´|
|Henderson: Liverpool are up for the cup|
|Edimar wants ´normal´ ban for Real star Ronaldo|
|Pellegrini defends misfiring City strikers|
|Australia ready for UAE - Sainsbury|
|Blanc takes positives from past|
|Inzaghi promises ´something different´ at Milan|
|Mexes sorry for seeing red|
|La Liga Review: Wins for top three|
|Vitoria Guimaraes 2 Gil Vicente 2: Last-gasp penalty salvages point for hosts|
|Simeone marvels at Griezmann impact|
|Djordjevic to have x-ray on ankle problem|
|Eredivisie Review: PSV go seven points clear, Heerenveen cruise|
|Luis Enrique backs himself on Suarez omission|
|Lazio 3 Milan 1: Parolo and Klose seal victory|
|Cameroon 1 Guinea 1: Draw ensures Group D stays finely poised|
|Rodgers reveals Sturridge fitness boost after Bolton stalemate|
|Atletico Madrid 3 Rayo Vallecano 1: Griezmann inspires routine win|
|Gabriel move agreed, Campbell to join Villarreal on loan|
|Gabon v Equatorial Guinea: Neighbours face off for quarter-final berth|
|FA Cup Review: Chelsea stunned by Bradford as Middlesbrough beat Manchester City|
|Ronaldo apologises for red card|
|Pulis eyes room for improvement|
|Liverpool 0 Bolton Wanderers 0: Championship side frustrate Anfield to earn replay|
|Karanka hails players after stunning City|
|Elche 0 Barcelona 6: Neymar and Messi inspire resounding win|
|League Two Review: Wycombe and Burton held, Shrewsbury up to second|
|Pardew lauds Palace performance|
|Pochettino laments late collapse|
|Scottish Premiership Review: Celtic stretch lead, Inverness and Dundee United keep up chase|
|Parkinson revels in huge upset after humbling Chelsea|
|Bayern targeting unbeaten Bundesliga season - Robben|
|Pearson: FA Cup win can breed confidence|
|League One Review: Dons close gap, Peterborough end run|
|Ivory Coast 1 Mali 1: Gradel rescues Renard´s men|
|Fulham seal Richards loan|
|Pellegrini: UAE trip had no impact|
|Koeman blames defeats on defensive lapses|
|Gundogan injury mars Dortmund preparations|
|Championship Review: Ighalo stars as Blackpool capitulate|
|Chelsea defeat a ´disgrace´ - Mourinho|
|Monk rues missed opportunity|
|Manchester City 0 Middlesbrough 2: Boro stun City with FA Cup shock|
|Chelsea 2 Bradford City 4: League One outfit dump out Premier League leaders|
|Tottenham 1 Leicester City 2: Late turnaround stuns Spurs|
|Cordoba 1 Real Madrid 2: Bale steals late win as Ronaldo sees red|
|Birmingham City 1 West Brom 2: Anichebe seals derby triumph|
|Southampton 2 Crystal Palace 3: Pardew´s men reach fifth round|
|Sunderland 0 Fulham 0: Defoe fails to fire on home debut|
|Bowyer hails ´terrific´ Blackburn|
|Rochdale v Stoke City: Shawcross in race to be fit for cup clash|
|Blackburn Rovers 3 Swansea City 1: Late goals snatch victory for Championship side|
|Congo v Burkina Faso: Le Roy vows to attack|
|Roma still in race for Scudetto - Garcia|
|Mancini coy on Toure links|
|Mertens rules out Napoli exit|
|Barzagli back in Juve squad|
|A-League Review: Adelaide and Sydney rack up the goals|
|Real have signed a ´diamond´ in Silva, says Oliveira|
|Queiroz: How can Williams sleep at night?|
|Asian Cup history ´the focus´ for Australia - Kruse|
|Pogba could be the world´s ´most expensive´ player|
|Australia international joins Dundee United|
|Real Madrid is a ´dream come true´ - Silva|
|Van Gaal angered by first-half showing in cup stalemate|