Real Madrid resisted a stunning second-half onslaught from Galatasaray to lose 3-2 on the night in Turkey but progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League courtesy of a 5-3 aggregate win.
Madrid looked to be cruising to the 24th European Cup semi-final in the club's glorious history when Cristiano Ronaldo's accomplished close-range finish after eight minutes left Galatasaray needing five goals in front of their home fans in Istanbul.
But for 15 crazy minutes in the second half it appeared as though one of European football's most unlikely comebacks could be on as Fatih Terim's side left the men from Madrid rocking, Emmanuel Eboue sparking the hosts into life with a scorching effort on 57 minutes.
When Wesley Sneijder nutmegged Raphael Varane and slotted the ball home on 70 minutes and Didier Drogba converted with a beautiful backheeled flick just two minutes later, Madrid appeared to be in danger of succumbing to the impossible.
But after losing Alvaro Arbeloa to a late red card, Ronaldo slotted home a second in injury time to finally end Galatasaray's resistance.
Jose Mourinho was aiming to protect a proud record of having never lost a Champions League quarter-final in six previous attempts and while he was deprived of Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos by suspensions, Galatasaray's loss of eight-goal striker Burak Yilmaz was more significant in the context of the tie, even if Drogba and Sneijder both started.
Madrid were packed with forward talent and after only three minutes demonstrated why they are Europe's most potent counter-attacking force by moving the ball the length of the pitch in seconds thanks to some quick passing from Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria. Gonzalo Higuain was prevented from getting a shot away when Fernando Muslera ran off his line and Di Maria put the loose ball wide of the post via a deflection.
Galatasaray had to contain the Spanish champions to have any real chance of progressing but with Madrid only failing to score in one of their past 34 games in Europe, that looked a distinctly unlikely prospect. As it transpired, Ronaldo needed only eight minutes to claim his 10th Champions League goal of the season.
The Portuguese forward muscled aside Eboue to get on the end of a neat cut-back from Sami Khedira and caress the ball home on the volley from close range to give Madrid a 4-0 advantage on aggregate, and leave Galatasaray needing five.
Gala remained game though, with former Madrid playmaker Sneijder lively enough as he operated in the pocket behind Drogba and Umut Bulut. The Dutchman - also a former favourite of Mourinho at Inter - tried to prise open the visiting defence with some diagonal passing and also went close with a chance of his own that bounced into the arms of Diego Lopez.
But Madrid's superior use of the ball ensured they had the better of the first half, with only a fine reaction stop from Muslera preventing Di Maria from firing home a second after a gorgeous backheel from Ronaldo.
But after the Portuguese forward had wasted a fine chance in the early stages of the second half when getting his legs in a tangle and shooting against his standing leg, Gala pulled a ball back through a most unlikely source to set off a most unlikely resurgence. The ball, arriving low from Sneijder from the left, ran free on the edge of the box and Eboue executed a sensational drive with the outside of his boot from 20 yards that arrowed right into the top corner.
Suddenly the Turkish side were full of confidence and they should have claimed a second goal just four minutes later. Madrid's defence looked horribly static when a loose pass found Sneijder completely unmarked in the box but the Dutchman was guilty of a horrid effort, side-footing the ball well wide with Lopez at his mercy.
Madrid were crumbling in front of Mourinho's eyes and two goals in the space of two minutes allowed the home fans to dream of a truly unbelievable comeback.
On 70 minutes, Sneijder claimed his first Champions League goal of the season when nutmegging Varane with a glorious first touch and then running around the defender to slot the ball past Lopez and into the bottom corner with his second.
Drogba, though, surpassed even that effort two minutes later. Galatasaray's second marquee signing of the season executed a quite stunning backheel as he span to meet a from a cross from the right and directed the ball inside the far corner.
Madrid tried to muster a response as Ronaldo fired just over following a lofted pass from Modric but far more effective was Mourinho's decision to bring on Raul Albiol for Mesut Ozil in an effort to deny Gala space in the final third.
Though Arbeloa saw red for a second yellow card in the closing minutes, Madrid secured their place in the last four once again with a second of the night from Ronaldo, who latched onto a low cross from substitute Karim Benzema to slot a first-time effort past Muslera.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Didier Drogba (Galatasaray) - Ronaldo scored twice but Drogba helped spearhead Galatasaray's spirited second-half performance with some typically industrious forward play and capped it off with a brilliant goal.
GALATASARAY: Muslera 7, Eboue 7, Zan 7, Kaya 6, Riera 6, Melo 7, Altintop 6, Inan 8, Sneijder 8, Bulut 7, Drogba 8. Subs: Amrabat 7, Sarioglu 8, Elmander 7.
REAL MADRID: Lopez 5, Essien 5, Varane 6, Pepe 6, Coentrao 5, Khedira 6, Modric 6, Di Maria 7, Ozil 7, Ronaldo 8, Higuain 5. Subs: Arbeloa 5, Benzema 6, Albiol 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Champions League
- Didier Drogba
- Real Madrid
- Wesley Sneijder