Reigning champions Italy were sensationally knocked out of the World Cup by a Slovakia side that clinched a place in the last 16 with victory in a match of incredible drama and tension.
In arguably the best game of the tournament so far, Robert Vittek scored a goal in each half to seemingly end the Azzurri's hopes of defending the trophy they won in Germany four years ago.
But Antonio Di Natale pulled it back to 2-1 with nine minutes remaining, leaving the Italians needing to score again to claim the point that would have seen them scrape through from Group F.
And they thought it had come through substitute Fabio Quagliarella, only for the offside flag to agonisingly deny them.
Italy's hopes of advancing were then seemingly extinguished once and for all when Slovakia substitute Kamil Kopunek exploited defensive hesitation, running onto a throw-in before lifting the ball brilliantly beyond advancing goalkeeper Federico Marchetti with one minute of normal time remaining.
Even then, there was time for Quagliarella to score with a superb injury-time strike and Simone Pepe to scuff a far-post volley as Italy staged a last-ditch attempt to remain in the finals in South Africa.
The win sees Slovakia claim second place behind group winners Paraguay - and ensures the campaign is already a resounding success for coach Vladimir Weiss and his team.
But the 2010 World Cup will be remembered as a disaster for opposite number Marcelo Lippi as his team finish bottom of their group having failed to qualify from the opening stage of the competition for the first time since 1974. Lippi, who guided them to glory in 2006, sees his second spell as coach end in dramatic defeat.
Italy drew with Paraguay and New Zealand before losing to Slovakia, who are ranked 34th in the world, and could have no complaints about the result at Ellis Park after their opponents approached the game with more craft and invention.
The Azzurri conceded just twice in their triumphant campaign four years ago but their central defensive pairing of veteran Fabio Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini were opened up numerous times.
Napoli's Marek Hamsik should really have scored for Slovakia after six minutes when he found himself completely unmarked 16 yards from goal, only to mis-cue his volley.
However, there was much to admire in the precision of Slovakia's opening goal after Daniele De Rossi's awful pass gifted possession to Juraj Kucka.
Sparta Prague forward Kucka quickly assessed the situation before playing a superb disguised pass to Vittek, whose accurate low strike from the edge of the area eluded Marchetti.
Italy striker Vincenzo Iaquinta fired wide from a tight angle in reply, while Riccardo Montolivo thrashed a shot over the crossbar in the final attack of a very frustrating opening half for his side.
It could have been an even worse first 45 minutes for the Azzurri as skipper Cannavaro, playing what turned out to be his final game for his country, was perhaps fortunate to escape a booking for a lunge on Hamsik minutes after he had received a caution.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi had seen enough and brought on Christian Maggio and Quagliarella for Domenicio Criscito and Gennaro Gattuso at the break.
And after only 10 minutes of the second half, he played his final card by introducing AC Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo, so important in 2006, but unable to play any part in their first two matches because of a calf injury.
Italy were effectively playing with a front four, although Pepe and Quagliarella dropped back from their wide positions when Slovakia were in possession.
The tactical switch undoubtedly opened up the game and shortly after Martin Skrtel's sensational, if slightly fortunate, goal-line clearance after a firm strike from Quagliarella, Slovakia doubled their lead.
Chiellini headed a corner clear but as he looked around to adjust his position the alert Vittek made a near-post run that allowed him to steal a march on the Italian and convert Hamsik's low cross.
The contest was by now an end-to-end encounter, and it became heated with some ugly scenes following Di Natale's close-range goal.
Slovakia keeper Jan Mucha tussled with Quagliarella as they both tried to retrieve the ball from the back of the net and after Kucka came to his team-mate's defence, both the Italian and Mucha ended up on the floor.
The goal gave Italy renewed hope but they could not pull themselves level in a thrilling finish which ended with the final whistle which prompted mass celebrations among the Slovakia players.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
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