Spain booked a date with Brazil in the Confederations Cup final with an 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory over Italy at the Castelao.
Although the World Cup holders stormed to a 4-0 win over the Azzurri in the Euro 2012 final, this encounter proved far more evenly-contested.
Vicente del Bosque's men monopolised possession but lacked a cutting edge in attack, while Italy missed numerous chances throughout as the match ended goalless.
With nothing to separate the two nations the game went to penalties, where Jesus Navas proved to be the hero as he scored the crucial spot kick as the shoot-out finished 7-6 to Spain.
Cesare Prandelli switched to a three-man defence and his side began impressively, despite letting the Spaniards control possession of the ball.
The Azzurri, though, with the Fortaleza crowd backing them, looked superb on the counter-attack. After Alberto Gilardino had failed to pick out the bottom corner from Antonio Candreva's cross, they became increasingly confident and forged yet more chances to find the net.
Christian Maggio was unable to guide a header from Andrea Pirlo's exquisite pass past Iker Casillas in the 17th minute and Daniele De Rossi's glancing header missed the target 60 seconds later.
In the 19th minute Claudio Marchisio missed the best of the bunch, though, as he nodded the ball well wide of the target from Candreva's cushion despite finding plenty of space between the two centre-backs.
That flurry of activity encouraged Spain to reduce the tempo and steady themselves, but the Azzurri were again next to test the opposing goalkeeper.
Jordi Alba was being nullified by the adventurous combination of Candreva and Maggio, and the latter was only denied a goal when a brilliant Casillas save kept his 36th-minute header out of the net.
Spain almost immediately punished Prandelli's side for their profligacy in front of goal one minute later, but after turning Andrea Barzagli in wonderful fashion Fernando Torres could not find a finish to match as he pulled his shot wide of the target.
With La Roja failing to show an increased threat immediately after the restart Del Bosque introduced Jesus Navas in the 50th minute. The new Manchester City signing had a positive impact, calling Gianluigi Buffon into action with a driven shot from 20 yards shortly before the hour mark.
The conditions began to sap the life from the game as Italy lost the intent on the break and Spain continued to lack creativity. Andres Iniesta attempted to take matters into his own hands, yet after a mazy run from the half-way line he sliced an attempt wide of the goal.
There were chances for both sides to win the game in normal time, though neither team could break the deadlock. Marchisio's attempt from a Candreva cutback was blocked by Gerard Pique before Pedro and the Barcelona centre-back wasted two great opportunities to work Buffon, and extra time ensued.
After three minutes of the additional period Italy had their best chance of the night. Maggio's cross rolled through to Emanuele Giaccherini at the back post, whose attempted shot crashed back off of Casillas' post.
The tempo to the game quickly picked up again and Iniesta's beautiful lifted pass over Leonardo Bonucci was volleyed over by Alba in the 99th minute as La Roja got nearer to breaking the deadlock.
With five minutes left to play Xavi was denied an absolutely magnificent winner when his long-range shot was turned onto the post by Buffon. The Juventus keeper was forced to make another save from Navas one minute later to ensure the game went to penalties.
Candreva got Italy off to the perfect start by dinking the first penalty straight down the middle and all subsequent spot kicks were scored until Bonucci skied from 12 yards with the score level at 6-6. Responsibility fell to Navas who slotted the ball home to send Spain into the final.
Spain will now take place in Sunday's final against Brazil at the Maracana, while Italy will contest the third-place play-off against Uruguay in Salvador on the same day.
|Coach: Del Bosque|
for David Silva 53'
for Pedro 79'
for Fernando Torres 94'
|Ivory Coast´s tournament starts now - Renard|
|Allegri rejects Juve criticism|
|Atletico´s Arda Turan escapes red card after throwing boot at assistant referee|
|Atletico Madrid 2 Barcelona 3 (agg 2-4): Neymar double secures semi-final spot|
|Parma 0 Juventus 1: Morata late show wins it for visitors|
|Sheffield United 2 Tottenham 2 (agg 2-3): Pochettino books Wembley final|
|Ecuador dismiss Vizuete|
|Championship Preview: Middlesbrough out to continue run, Bournemouth seek response|
|Guinea 1 Mali 1: Lots to decide Group D runners-up|
|Cameroon 0 Ivory Coast 1: Gradel strike sends Renard´s men through|
|Lots to be drawn to decide AFCON qualifiers|
|Eredivisie Preview: De Boer warning for Ajax, leaders PSV host Willem II|
|Bundesliga Preview: Leaders Bayern and Wolfsburg kick off Ruckrunde|
|Howard boost for Everton|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Jardim plays down Monaco title hopes ahead of Lyon showdown|
|Costa charged by FA for alleged Can stamp|
|O´Keefe joins Cardiff|
|Dons teenager Alli in demand|
|Gabriel seals Arsenal switch|
|Wolfsburg v Bayern Munich: Guardiola eyes ´big step´ to Bundesliga title|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Rennes: Montanier seeks another upset in French capital|
|Martinez rules out panic buys|
|Gilardino targets Fiorentina goals|
|Milan agree Bocchetti loan|
|League Two Preview: Cambridge and Luton prepare to renew rivalries|
|Ronaldo hit with two-match ban|
|West Brom complete McManaman deal|
|Sullivan hits back in Sakho row|
|Richards: Cuadrado suited to Premier League|
|Figo to challenge for FIFA presidency|
|Inzaghi out to freshen up struggling Milan|
|Wigan agree a fee for Mckay|
|Carver eyes strong finish|
|Bowen cools talk of Stoke swoop for Sandro and Traore|
|Lazio-bound Morrison lands in Rome|
|Mourinho fined £25k for ´campaign´ claims|
|Mainz bring in Castillo|
|Villa: Lambert will not be sacked|
|Monk hopeful of adding new faces|
|Sainsbury ready to replace Franjic|
|Beckenbauer hopeful of Guardiola stay|
|Mourinho hits back at Costa critics|
|Rodriguez grateful for ´fundamental´ Ronaldo support|
|La Liga Preview: Real want revenge against Socieded|
|No Dallas move for Essien|
|Bale rubbishes United link, Ronaldo rift|
|Sahin in ´good shape´ for Bundesliga resumption|
|Rodgers slams Costa´s stamp collection|
|Under-fire Inzaghi urges patience|
|Rodgers: Courtois saved Chelsea|
|Mashaba wants lessons to be learnt after AFCON exit|
|Mourinho refuses to wade into Costa incidents after Chelsea win|
|Football League Review: Bent double sends Derby second, Rotherham triumph|
|Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0 (aet, agg 2-1): Ivanovic settles action-packed League Cup semi-final|
|Milan 0 Lazio 1: Inzaghi future plunged into further doubt|
|Neymar dreaming of ending Brazil´s home hoodoo|
|South Africa 1 Ghana 2: Late Ayew winner seals qualification|
|Senegal 0 Algeria 2: Mahrez and Bentaleb dump Senegal out|
|Bocchetti poised to join Milan on loan|
|De Rossi suffers calf injury|
|Montano accuses Oldham of double standards after Evans saga|
|Bojan out for the season with ruptured cruciate|
|Cameroon v Ivory Coast: Renard defends Yaya Toure|
|Yanga-Mbiwa makes Roma move permanent|
|Guinea v Mali: Quarter-final berth on offer in Mongomo|
|Thohir: Inter not reliant on European football|
|Bremen land Vestergaard|
|Allegri refuses to rule out Cassano move|
|Mexes handed four-game ban after Lazio dismissal|
|Joyce reveals Valdes´ inspirational team-talk|
|CAF announces AFCON venue switches|
|Alcacer commits future to Valencia|
|Postecoglou calls for Aussie ´energy´|
|Everton confirm Eto´o departure to Sampdoria|
|Pochettino to stick with Vorm despite cup error|
|Barcelona are not favourites against Atletico, says Luis Enrique|
|Allegri wary of Parma backlash in Coppa Italia|
|Zidane urges Real to tie Ancelotti down|
|FIFPro: Transfer system failing football|
|Anderlecht condemn Standard´s Defour banner|
|Australia 2 UAE 0: Socceroos ease into home final|
|Barca overhaul youth system|
|FIFPro demands clubs respect contractual obligations|
|Mahmoud targeting World Cup place with Iraq|
|Fabregas wants Chelsea to show winning mentality|
|Rangers borrow £10m from Ashley´s Sports Direct|
|Lyon face anxious wait over Lacazette|
|Undermanned Lazio recall Perea|
|Ki wants South Korea to prove their superiority|
|Ghana´s Gyan wary of South Africa|
|Mashaba urges South Africa to attack|
|Benitez: Napoli deserved to win|
|Pacos de Ferreira 1 Benfica 0: Leaders fail from the spot|
|Serie A Review: Higuain at the double in controversial Napoli win, Udinese see off Empoli|