Germany tore Argentina apart to book their place in the semi-finals and, for now at least, end Diego Maradona's dream of winning the World Cup as coach to go with his victory as captain in 1986.
Inspired by Bastian Schweinsteiger and two-goal hero Miroslav Klose, Joachim Loew's side scored four times for the third game at this tournament in what was a devastating attacking display.
Klose found the net only three times in the Bundesliga all season in a miserable campaign for Bayern Munich but he has now beaten that tally at this tournament, as well as moving to within a goal of Ronaldo, who with 15 goals, is the all-time highest scorer at World Cup finals.
After Thomas Mueller's early header, Germany coped with everything Argentina could throw at them before finishing off Maradona's men with a lethal late burst.
Following Brazil's self-destruction against the Dutch on Friday, Germany became the latest European team to see off a highly fancied South American side, and they move into the last four looking in good shape to become world champions for the first time since 1990.
At times this win was reminiscent of the way Germany had ripped through England's backline in the second round a week ago, with Argentina caught out by their speed and incisiveness on the counter-attack as they chased the game.
The only cloud on Germany's horizon is that the impressive Mueller picked up a booking that means he will miss the last-four clash with Paraguay or Spain, but Loew still has much to savour from this match.
Mueller opened the scoring after only three minutes when Schweinsteiger swung in a free-kick from the left and he escaped the Argentina defence to beat Sergio Romero with a downward header that the keeper got a leg to but could not keep out.
Klose, who also won his 100th cap for Germany, should have made it 2-0 when Mueller broke into the area down the right and squared for him in front of goal. But he fired wastefully over, not that it appeared to matter much at that point.
With Lionel Messi finding it difficult to impose himself on the game thanks to the close attention of Schweinsteiger, Argentina's response was largely limited to shots from distance.
They did improve as half-time approached and Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain both forced Manuel Neuer into low saves, but Germany continued to threaten on the break.
Only after the interval did Argentina manage a spell of sustained pressure, and they threatened almost immediately when Di Maria let fly from outside the box and saw the ball fizz narrowly wide.
For a good 20 minutes, Maradona's men dominated possession and Carlos Tevez had a shot blocked superbly blocked by Per Mertesacker while Germany keeper Neuer was kept busy as shots peppered his goal.
But, after wave after wave of Argentina attacks had been frustrated, Loew's side hit back with a lethal sucker-punch to seal victory with two near-identical goals in quick succession.
First, Podolski burst into the box down the left and squared to give Klose the easiest of tap-ins to make it 2-0, with the striker walking the ball over the line.
Then, with Argentina still rocking, Schweinsteiger weaved his way down the same flank and crossed for Arne Freidrich to bundle the ball in at the near post.
The game was up for the South American side, and neither the jaded Messi on the pitch nor Maradona off it could lift them for any sort of belated response.
Fittingly, the final word went to Klose, who volleyed home Germany's fourth from Mesut Oezil's cross in the last minute - his 14th World Cup goal - after the imperious Schweinsteiger had brought the ball forward again.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
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|Group E teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|
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|Group G teams||P||W||D||L||F||A||GD||PTS|