Spain secured their passage into the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 with a tense 1-0 victory over Croatia that sent Slaven Bilic's side out of the competition.
With Italy simultaneously beating Ireland, the match approached its climax on a knife-edge. Croatia needed to score to progress, while incredibly Spain was just one goal from heading out of the competition themselves. But Jesus Navas' 88th minute winner calmed Spanish nerves and ended Croatian hopes after a brave defensive display.
With his team selection Croatia coach Slaven Bilic left little doubt as to how his side was going to set about getting a result.
Nikica Jelavic was left on the bench with Mario Mandzukic leading the line and Domagoj Vida coming in as right-back, meaning Darijo Srna switched to a more advanced role. The Croatian midfield was further stiffened by bringing in the more defense-minded Danijel Pranjic in for Ivan Perisic on the left.
Unsurprisingly, Croatia spent the vast majority of the first period camped in their own half. Prepared to allow Spain possession at the back, as soon as the ball was passed into the opposition half Croatia was quick to surround the ball.
And in terms of frustrating the Spanish, the tactic proved highly effective. Vicente Del Bosque's side struggled to create a clear-cut opportunity as they encountered a swarm of checkered shirts on the edge of the box. When they did try to probe in-behind, center-backs Gordon Schildenfeld and Vedran Corluka were alert and anticipating well.
The best chance that came Spain's way in the opening 45 minutes came courtesy of David Silva whose clever ball found Andres Iniesta bursting into the box, but, under pressure from a defender and stretching, he could only poke the ball tamely toward Stipe Pletikosa.
In order to try and create the extra man further forward Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique both took turns in advancing from the back. Each had well struck long-range efforts, but neither seriously threatened Pletikosa.
Incredulously, given Spain's 68 percent possession in the first period it was Croatia who perhaps could have gone in ahead at the break. Right on the edge of the box down the right, Sergio Ramos committed a reckless studs-up challenge that won the ball but took plenty of Mandzukic and left the front man poleaxed. The referee, though, elected merely to award a corner.
With Italy leading Ireland 1-0 at the break the tension in this game only increased. While Croatia now needed to score, suddenly Spain was just a goal away from a most unlikely exit.
The match proceeded in a similar pattern, though, with Spain again in command. Although, Croatia was becoming an increasingly menacing threat in their rare forays down field. The absence of Carlos Puyol perhaps being exposed as Spain struggled to deal with the limited attack Croatia offered up.
Modric was key to most of what Croatia did when in possession and it was he who set up perhaps their best chance, for Ivan Rakitic. Having broken down the right, Modric turned back and crossed a delightful ball in with the outside of his right boot that found Rakitic perfectly at the far post, but from six yards out his header was too close to Iker Casillas, who made a fine save at his near post.
With just over an hour played, both coaches looked to get the break through with substitutions. Del Bosque sought to inject width as he replaced the disappointing Torres with Jesus Navas. Bilic, meanwhile. reverted to his previous starting lineup by bringing on Jelavic and Ivan Perisic
Despite their attacking substitutions and the increased urgency of the situation, Croatia, perhaps wisely, continued to sit back and look to take advantage on the counter.
When they did break Croatia remained a real threat. After Mandzukic ran free down the left he crossed to the far post for Perisic, who took a touch before firing in a low effort that Casillas parried away.
Spain was finally starting to have more joy at the other end too as Iniesta and Navas both had shots blocked by Pletikosa.
But it was left to another substitute Cesc Fabregas to come up with a piece of magic that finally settled the contest. The Barcelona man produced an inspired scooped pass that found Iniesta breaking beyond the Croatian back line and he chested it down before squaring it for Navas to appropriately walk the ball into the net. The Croatians stood, many of them stationary, waiting for an offside flag that never arrived as, though Navas was offside form the original pass, Iniesta timed his run to perfection.
The result was tough on Croatia, who in any other scenario put in a highly commendable performance. But perhaps they showed the rest of the competition that the World and European champions are far from invincible.