It was the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, Sunday-spoiling tie most of America has ever experienced.
The U.S. men's national soccer team was on the brink of beating Portugal and advancing to the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals. It was 37 seconds from conquering the Group of Death, the toughest group in the tournament, a feat only the irrational predicted when the draw was announced six months ago.
Instead, a late goal -- the latest ever scored in a World Cup game -- left the U.S. with a 2-2 tie.
The result didn't kill the U.S. team's chances of advancing in the tournament. In fact, a crucial point was earned toward the goal.
But the way it all went down made the tie feel like a loss.
America was that close to four days of celebration on a global dance floor. Soccer isn't our best sport, so to advance to the knockout rounds -- and need only two games to do it! -- would have been cause for a nationwide party.
But just before the bottles could be popped, the cruelty of soccer sucker-punched America. Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world, pulled a rabbit out of his hat as if he'd been just playing around the first 94 minutes.
"Just unlucky," U.S. star Clint Dempsey said in the postgame interview. "We're still looking good in the group."
The U.S. can still advance for the second consecutive World Cup. And should it happen Thursday, it will still be a significant feat -- forcing the soccer snobs to make room for the U.S. in their futbol hierarchy.
A win or tie on Thursday against Germany, which many pegged as the best team in the Cup, will send the U.S. to the next stage.
There are other ways for the U.S. to advance. A tie Thursday between Portugal and Ghana would also do the trick. Even with a loss to Germany, the U.S. could advance with a close-win by Portugal over Ghana.
But nothing would have been easier, or more fulfilling, than closing the deal Sunday.
The script had practically written itself. In the opening game last Monday, the U.S. had beaten Ghana, a team that had KO'd them from the last two Cups, on a late goal by John Brooks, a rookie who'd just been substituted into the game.
That same day, Portugal, another power team, was beaten 4-0 by Germany and lost one of its best players, Pepe, to a red-card violation. With Ronaldo already hampered by injury, it was as if Portugal was being gift-wrapped for the U.S.
That notion was quickly dismissed Sunday. Portugal scored early, a clearance gaffe by Geoff Cameron leading to an easy goal. But that just laid the groundwork for the never-say-die storyline.
The U.S. stormed back and took control the game. Eventually, Jermaine Jones tied the score with an epic goal, lasering one from outside the box, past Portugal's keeper to the low-right corner of the net.
At that point, a tie felt grand.
Then in the 81st minute, the U.S. scored again. Dempsey, right in front of the net, belly-bumped in a pass from Graham Zusi. Suddenly, America was a burgeoning soccer power.
All the boys had to do was hold on. Five minutes of extra time was added and the U.S. spent most of it killing clock. At one point, Jones collapsed onto his back in the middle of play, only to get up and clear a chance for Portugal. Even the local hero, Chris Wondolowski, the East Bay kid and Earthquakes star, got some run. He entered as a late sub for Dempsey and made a heady play, eschewing an open lane to the goal for a chance to dribble out some clock in the corner.
A nation grinded out the seconds with them. Hanging on every clearance. Holding its collective breath every time Portugal looked to have an opportunity. Hearts stopping with every agile save from goal keeper Tim Howard.
It looked as if we all were going to survive. A few more passes, one more stall tactic, and the whistle would come to end the game.
But a series of unfortunate events began to unfold at the 94:24 mark. Midfielder Michael Bradley lost the ball in the middle of the field, leading to one last run for Portugal.
The ball found it way to the feet of Ronaldo. With desperation dripping from his brow -- a loss would have eliminated Portugal -- Ronaldo executed a world-class cross at the 94:30 mark.
As the ball bent through the dense jungle air of Manaus, the exhausted U.S players, running on fumes, dragged their way toward the goal. Portugal's Silvestre Varela, a late sub with fresh legs, darted through the America's back line to put a head on Ronaldo's perfect pass.
At the 94:33 mark, Howard, the U.S. goalie, was gripping his head in disbelief.
"We had one foot in the door," Howard said in a postgame interview. "It hurts ... The game's cruel."
In nine seconds, a week of unbridled hysteria was transformed into nervous hope. An improbable, historic victory had morphed into a disappointing, agonizing tie.