Iran knocked four-times champions Japan out of the Asian Cup with a 2-1 victory in their quarter-final clash after skipper Alireza Jahanbakhsh converted a penalty in stoppage time at Education City Stadium on Saturday.
With the match between Asia's top-two ranked sides tied at 1-1, Iran won a penalty in the fourth minute of added time and Jahanbakhsh stepped up to blast the ball into the top corner, drawing a loud roar from the Iranian fans in the arena.
The victory also saw Iran avenge their 2019 semi-finalloss to Japan and when the final whistle blew, the Iranian bench emptied onto the pitch and an emotional Jahanbakhsh dropped to the turf in relief while many players wept tears of joy.
Iran, who are seeking a record-equalling fourth Asian Cup title, had not beaten Japan in 19 years while their victory also extended Amir Ghalenoei's unbeaten streak to 16 matches since he took charge in March.
"Iran should be proud of their sons, they gave everything they had for their people. I think the result can be a turning point for Iranian football," Ghalenoei told reporters.
Iran will find out their semi-final opponents later on Saturday when defending champions Qatar take on Uzbekistan. Jordan play South Korea in the other semi-final.
After a cagey start to a physical contest, Japan had taken the lead through Hidemasa Morita who made a run past four defenders before beating Alireza Beiranvand in goal to silence the Iran fans in the stadium.
But the volume went up when Iran equalised 10 minutes into the second half with a sublime move where Sardar Azmoun played the ball through to Mohammad Mohebi, who ran around his marker before slipping his shot past Suzuki into the bottom corner.
Japan had dominated possession in the first half but it was Iran who controlled proceedings after the equaliser as they pressed hard in defenceand initiated wave after wave of attacks and the pressure finally paid off in second-half added time.
Japan's Ko Itakura made a mess of a clearance in the 94th minute and as he tried to recover, he tripped Hossein Kanani in the box and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Jahanbakhsh converting to whip their fans into a frenzy.
"I'd like to congratulate Iran. Unfortunately we have to leave the tournament now at the quarter-final stage. I feel sorry for our fans and everyone involved in Japanese football," Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.
"I regret I couldn't give the earthquake victims a happier moment. I feel responsible for the result.
"We have to improve in many aspects, we conceded a goal in all five matches in this tournament. If you don't keep a clean sheet you can't win... We couldn't handle the pressure they put on our defence."