Bankrupted by years of mismanagement, Fiorentina were relegated to Italy's fourth division, Serie C2, in 2002.
One of Italy's most famous clubs lost its badge, name and even the right to wear the famous all-violet kit.
Just two years later, Fiorentina have announced their return to Serie A with a £20m summer spending spree.
BBC Sport looks at the extraordinary fall and rise of Fiorentina.
WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG?
Fiorentina's troubles began under former owner Vittorio Cecchi Gori, an ambitious media mogul who borrowed £20m from the club's coffers to keep his empire afloat.
AC FIORENTINA'S DEMISE
November 2001: Players protest after going unpaid for three months
May 2002: Fiorentina relegated to Serie B for only the second time in their history
August 2002: Italian FA expel Fiorentina from Serie B because of financial problems
By 2001 Fiorentina were a club in crisis - Gori faced charges of money laundering and cocaine possession and briefly handed control to his 82-year-old mother Valeria.
Unable to pay stars like Rui Costa and Nuno Gomes, Fiorentina ended the 2001-02 season in 19th place, dropping out of Serie A for only the second time in their history.
But when Gori was unable to raise the necessary money to register the team in Serie B, Italy's soccer authorities threw Fiorentina out of the division and the club, albeit briefly, ceased to exist.
Thanks to the intervention of wealthy businessman Diego Della Valle, a new club was formed under the name Fiorentina 1926 Fiorentia and allowed to compete in Serie C2.
With all the players released and the new club forbidden to even play in purple, the only remaining connection to Fiorentina was club captain Angelo di Livio, who accepted a massive pay cut to stay in Florence.
HOW DID THEY RETURN TO SERIE A SO QUICKLY?
A new squad was assembled and despite a slow start, Fiorentia comfortably won Serie C2.
VIOLA'S RETURN TO SERIE A
May 2003: 'Fiorentia' win Serie C2 and rise to Serie C1
August 2003: Controversially fast-tracked to Serie B on 'sporting merit'
June 2004: Defeat Perugia in play-off to return to Serie A
In May 2003 Della Valle brought back the rights to the Fiorentina name and badge.
Three months later a controversial ruling from the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) allowed Fiorentina to skip Serie C1 and move up to Serie B.
Catania, Genoa, Cosenza and Salernitana ended the 2002-03 season in the Serie B relegation zone but a row over an ineligible player fielded by one of Catania's opponents saw all four teams escape relegation.
However, financial problems at Cosenza saw them subsequently expelled from Serie B with the FIGC controversially ruling Fiorentina should take the remaining place on "sporting merit".
With 24 teams starting last season in Serie B, the federation agreed five promotion spots would be available with the sixth-placed team earning a two-leg play-off against the fourth weakest Serie A side.
Fiorentina claimed sixth spot to grab the play-off place and after a 1-0 win in Perugia, 45,00 fans, including Batistuta,
crammed into the Stadio Artemio Franchi to watch them seal promotion with a 1-1 draw.
WHAT NEXT FOR FIORENTINA?
Della Valle's deep pockets and the club's glamorous image mean Fiorentina can attract top-class players.
During the summer Della Valle financed the signing of 14 new players, including Juventus pair Fabrizio Miccoli and Enzo Maresca, Parma playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata and Udinese's Martin Jorgensen - all proven Serie A performers.
The Viola's fairytale return may owe much to Della Valle's millions and some favourable decisions from Italy's footballing authorities.
But for the Fiorentina tifosi, it is Di Livio who will be remembered as the club's guardian angel.