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'
|Agent: Borini set to stay Liverpool|
|Koeman: No bids for Lovren|
|Livermore: England hopes shouldn´t hinge on club side|
|MLS Preview: Tough tests for Conference leaders, Revolution still struggling|
|Mathieu not Barca material, says Marquez|
|West Brom claim unimpressive win in Sacramento|
|Neymar: Brazil behind Germany, Spain|
|Vietnamese police confirm match-fixing players|
|Lucescu blames Joorabchian for AWOL players|
|Robinho undecided on future|
|Rush: Still years left in Gerrard|
|Tiago re-signs with Atletico|
|Puyol against Spain overhaul|
|Agger considering his Liverpool future|
|Peruvian Primera Division Review: Juan Aurich bounce back, Melgar draw with Inti Gas|
|Bayern deny interest in Cuadrado|
|New signings on show in Hull double-header|
|Hooiveld strike sinks Swindon|
|Costa departs Valencia|
|Morata suffers knee injury in training|
|K.League Preview: Seoul, Sangju aim to close gap to sixth, Ulsan host Jeonbuk|
|Lewandowski off the mark on Bayern bow|
|Gerrard retirement will boost Liverpool - Carragher|
|World Cup bidding report due in September|
|Evra bids emotional farewell to United fans|
|J.League Preview: Ventforet Kofu look to escape drop zone, Sagan Tosu battle Kawasaki Frontale|
|Salah spared military service|
|Garcia would welcome Torres return|
|Livermore understands Ince decision|
|Cole happy to get away from English press|
|Evra seals Juve switch|
|Bayern stay was Kroos´ ´priority´|
|Scuffet: Udinese right place to continue developing|
|Gerrard retires from England duty|
|Ambitious Pochettino targets title|
|Aspas eager to put ´bad season´ behind him|
|Atletico Mineiro v Lanus: Visitors out to recover from first-leg loss|
|UEFA Europa League Preview: Sligo, Inter Baku out to finish shocks|
|Hughes expects Bojan decision soon|
|Cech on the mend - Holland|
|Pardew eager to honour crash victims|
|Prandelli hits back at critics|
|Negredo breaks metatarsal|
|Rooney eager to impress Van Gaal|
|Palacios´ Qatar move falls through|
|Wenger rules out striker signing|
|Six Shakhtar players refuse to return|
|Six Vietnamese footballers arrested for match fixing|
|Copa Libertadores Preview: Nacional Asuncion, San Lorenzo to host first legs|
|Mata hopeful of title|
|Napoli bullish about Scudetto chances|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Patriotas Boyaca, Deportes Tolima start with wins|
|Subotic thrilled to be back|
|Germain: Monaco can replace Rodriguez|
|Sullivan confident of Carroll improvement|
|Callejon staying put|
|DC United 3 Chivas USA 1: DC end Chivas´ winning run|
|Liga MX Review: Goalkeeping howler costs champions Leon, Monterrey move top|
|Chilean Primera Division Review: Huachipato, Santiago Wanderers opening-day winners|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Internacional rout Flamengo, Cruzeiro win again|
|Prosinecki keen on South Korea job|
|Woodward promises new United signings|
|Chelsea´s Omeruo set for Middlesbrough return|
|Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Review: Lesotho, Congo, Benin take first-leg leads|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Deportivo Cuenco shock leaders Emelec, Independiente held|
|Rodriguez spotted in Madrid|
|Niang and Mastalli earn Milan win|
|Jutkiewicz at the double in Burnley rout|
|Crouch denies Gladbach victory|
|Hertha lead Biermann tributes|
|Vidic makes Inter bow in narrow victory|
|Rodriguez eager to leave Atletico|
|Thai Premier League Review: Buriram fail to close gap on Muang Thong, Chonburi gain ground|
|CSL Review: Guangzhou R&F take advantage as rivals Evergrande are held|
|Juventus and Lazio hold Astori talks|
|Lewandowski and Contento back in training|
|Sunderland target Borini joins Liverpool squad for US tour|
|K.League Review: Jeonbuk hammer Sangmu, Steelers march on|
|UEFA Champions League Preview: Buckley warns St Pat´s, Celtic primed to progress|
|Giaretta reveals Pereyra in demand|
|Kramer confirms Napoli talks|
|Nedved insists Juve key men going nowhere|
|Barton is a manager in the making - Redknapp|
|Monk unfazed from friendly setback|
|Holland: Lukaku not set to leave Chelsea|
|Debut nerves for Lambert|
|Woodward: Van Gaal will make United an attacking force|
|MLS Review: Sporting KC win again, Toronto held|
|Wenger: I´ll talk to Wilshere|
|Redknapp almost retired|
|Allardyce: Home form key for West Ham|
|Luis Enrique: ´We can´t draw conclusions yet´|
|Liverpool agree to sell Borini to Sunderland|
|Late Falque penalty spares Spurs blushes|
|Besler, Zusi agree Sporting KC contracts|