The USA played with great determination to overcome a disappointing Mexico team - and secure a place in the last eight for the first time since 1930.
Brian McBride, who spent large periods of the match watching from the half-way line as Mexico pushed forward, gave the USA the lead after just eight minutes.
And Landon Donovan doubled his team's advantage after striking on the break mid-way through the second-half.
After losing all three games at France 98, the USA have responded with some excellent displays in Korea and Japan - and have been rewarded with a quarter-final tie against Germany in Ulsan on Friday.
And their victory over Mexico is not only their first ever at the knockout stages of the World Cup but also their first clean sheet at a World Cup final since they beat England 1-0 in 1950.
Mexico are left to reflect on what might have been.
After impressing through the group stage - peaking with a superb performance against the fancied Italians - Mexico were unable to reproduce the crisp passing and composed finishing that had caught the eye.
Mexico, favourites going into the match, enjoyed the majority of the possession in the opening stages - but after absorbing early pressure the USA scored with their first attack of the game.
The goal was the product of the superb teamwork that has characterised the USA's play throughout the tournament.
Claudio Reyna broke down the right-hand side, defeating two Mexican players before passing to Josh Wolff, who laid the ball off for a completely unmarked McBride to strike home from 10 yards.
Torrado shoots at goal
Mexico tried to push forward - Ramon Morales missed the target after cutting inside from the right while Blanco and Gerardo Torrado forced saves from Brad Friedel.
But Mexico were otherwise struggling to impose themselves on the match and after 28 minutes coach Javier Aguirre replaced midfielder Morales with veteran striker Luis Hernandez.
With Hernandez's intelligent movement up front Mexico had more options in attack and Blanco almost equalised after a nervous punch clear by Brad Friedel.
USA, though, could have increased their lead shortly before the break but Wolff's shot after a clever knockdown from McBride was saved by Perez.
We came through big
Mexico began the second-half in determined mood and were unlucky not to equalise after 52 minutes.
Friedel misjudged Braulio Luna's swerving free-kick from a wide area and was fortunate to tip the ball against the crossbar.
Berhalter was lucky not to concede a penalty after blatantly trying to clear a Mexican corner with his hand but the referee - looking into a congested area - did not spot the incident.
But the USA always seemed a threat on the break and doubled their lead on 65 minutes.
Eddie Lewis broke down the left-hand side, got behind his opposing full-back and whipped a dangerous cross into the box, which Donovan - bursting forward form midfield - headed home.
Having scored a second goal, USA might have improved on their lead against an increasingly ragged Mexico.
John O'Brien shot narrowly over, Earnie Stewart had a header saved and Donovan blazed over from short range, while Mexico could muster little except for a shot from Salvador Carmona, which Friedel saved.
And - with defeat inevitable - Rafael Marquez was awarded a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on USA substitute Coby Jones.
It was the final act of a frustrating day for Mexico.
Mexico: Perez, Marquez, Carmona, Vidrio (Mercado 46),
Torrado (Garcia Aspe 78), Morales (Hernandez 28), Luna,
Johan Rodriguez, Arellano, Borguetti, Blanco.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Caballero, Campos, Gabriel De Anda, Garcia, Palencia, Alberto Rodriguez, Sanchez, Villa.
Sent Off: Marquez (88).
Booked: Vidrio, Hernandez, Blanco, Carmona.
USA: Friedel, Berhalter, Sanneh, Pope, Mastroeni (Llamosa 90),
O'Brien, Lewis, Reyna, Wolff (Stewart 59), McBride (Jones 79),
Subs Not Used: Agoos, Beasley, Cherundolo, Keller, Mathis, Meola, Moore, Regis.
Booked: Pope, Mastroeni, Wolff, Berhalter, Friedel.
Referee: V M Pereira (Portugal).
OFFICIAL MATCH STATS |
| Mexico | USA |
Goals | 0 | 2 |
Shots on goal | 12 | 10 |
Shots on target | 6 | 6 |
Fouls committed | 17 | 18 |
Corner kicks | 9 | 3 |
Penalty kicks | 0 | 0 |
Caught offside | 5 | 1 |
Own goals | 0 | 0 |
Yellow cards | 5 | 5 |
Red cards | 1 | 0 |
Ball possession (%) | 67 | 33 |
ACTUAL PLAYING TIME | |
First half - 36 mins | Second half - 18 mins |