With the crowd silenced following an extra-time header from Croatia defender Domagoj Vida in the 101st minute, Russian Federation defender Mario Fernandes scored with his own header in the 115th to send the match to yet another penalty shootout.
Having knocked out Spain on penalties in the previous round, Russia, 70th in the Federation Internationale de Football Association rankings, again defied the odds to take 20th ranked Croatia to a shootout with a 2-2 draw after extra time but on this occasion their marksmanship deserted them.
"I drank vodka before the penalty shoot-out because I was so excited", the former star striker said early Sunday as he walked happily through the mixed zone of Sochi's Fisht Stadium.
However, it was the Croatians who held their nerve in the shoot-out to triumph 4-3 and will now face England on Wednesday. Assisted by Luka Modric with a cross following a corner. Following a frenetic start during which both teams scored in the first five minutes, Zlatko Dalic's men were forced to endure a prolonged test of their nerves as the match went into extra time before ultimately prevailing after spot kicks. We're giving our all. I told him we were disappointed. "Of course there is some power left for the English - we'll not stop, we'll try to play our best game then". Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren expects "a great encounter" as "we have four days to rest and prepare for the game".
However, it was not to be for the resilient hosts, with goalkeeper Danijel Subasic saving Fedor Smolov's penalty and Fernandes firing wide before Rakitic sent Croatia through.
"We feel like conscripts, when they come to just before they have done their two-year (national) service, like those a bit demoralised who wanted to stay in the army for some more time longer". This World Cup campaign is also probably the last time for a cohort of talented players like Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mandzukic to sign off with global silverware. Only Harry Kane with six has more, but none so spectacular.
"They breezed past Sweden, they have a young team which is very alive and attacking". The World Cup in Russian Federation has been all about debunking popular beliefs, dispersing myths about the country and the football team ranked the lowest in the tournament, "I believe that the keyword is how we leave - it's better to leave with pride", the 54-year old coach said.
Modric said: "Our style was cramped a bit and maybe we did not want to risk with passes, so we had to balance it out in the second half".
"We saw how good they are from set pieces".
"We expect a very hard and tough, tight, demanding match, every match at this World Cup is like that", Modric said at a post-match press conference, broadcast via FIFATV.
"Fortune favors the fearless", he said.
By then the tears of Dalic, which he cried in joy and relief when it was all over Saturday, will also have dried.