SUBSTITUTES Katlego Mphela and Daniel Guiza connived to ignite the third place playoff of the 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup with a brace apiece for Bafana Bafana and Spain, to send the crowd into wild celebrations and the game into extra time.
Three goals in three minutes when Bafana were leading 1-0 and seemingly heading for glory, changed the script. A third from Xabi Alonso's freekick a minute into the second half of extra time settled the matter.
Bafana Bafana were so close to glory but two minutes of Spanish brilliance by Guiza on 88 and 89 minutes saw them having to fight back and that's when Mphela's thunderous free-kick sailed into the net on 90 minutes with Iker Cassillas rooted to his line.
There was still a game here. And Mphela kept probing. Suddenly Casillas was a busy man, saving desperately from Mphela and Bernard Parker.
The game at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Phokeng yesterday must surely rank as one of Bafana's best performances to date. That it came just three days after an equally great game against Brazil was the cherry on top.
It was end-to-end football that saw the likes of David Villa leading the Spanish attack with verve. On five minutes he had already shown his intentions when he turned both Siboniso Gaxa and Macbeth Sibaya, only for his shot to whistle across the face of goal.
The South Africans were also full value for money as they attacked the number one ranked side from all angles. But once agin their need for a ruthless finisher was exposed.
Villa threatened again on 20 minutes but Tshepo Masilela snuffed out the danger .
On 32 minutes Siphiwe Tshabalala had the stadium on its feet when his scorcher from just outside the 18 area brought out a fine save from Cassilas and Matthew Booth's follow-up went wide.
The game went into interval sans goals .
Steven Pienaar went into the referee's book as early as the second minute of the second stanza and Bafana were lucky to get away with an offside decision after Khune had parried the ball back into play from an Alonso free-kick.
Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque then brought in David Silva for Villa and Guiza for a subdued Fernando Torres 12 minutes into the second half.
For the first time in the tournament coach Joel Santana made an early substitution when he brought on Mphela for Pienaar on 64 minutes. Five minutes later he brought on Elrio van Heerden for Teko Modise.
Van Heerden soon made a difference when he fed Tshabalala on the left and the midfielder sent in a telling cross that was met by Mphela, who deftly controlled it before scoring on 73 minutes, sending the crowd into raptures.
Del Bosque then played his last card, bringing in Fernando Llorente for Sergio Busquets on 80 minutes. Not to be outdone, Santana brought in Benson Mhlongo for Tshabalala in a bid to shut the back door.
The Spanish side that got what they were looking for when Guiza's ground shot whizzed past Khune for the equaliser and a minute later the same player sent in an innocent looking cross that floated into the net .