Korea knew that only a win and a miracle would see them to their first round of 16 since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the fact that Portugal had already qualified and would likely rest players gave them extra belief, which grew as news of Ghana's capitulation filtered through.
Qatar 2022: Super Hwang strokes Korea into the round of 16
Another dramatic group at the World Cup was decided by a huge Hwang moment and a disastrous Ronaldo performance.
Formations and tactics
Korea were missing a Kim in defence, as Napoli's Kim Min-Jae was unable to recover in time for the crunch tie against Portugal, and he was replaced by Gamba Osaka's Kwon Kyung-won. They started with a 4-3-3, aiming to put more bodies forward and really disrupt the Portuguese defence. They also opted for 21-year-old Lee Kang-In to bolster their options in attacking transitions.
Portugal started with a 4-3-3 formation as well, but as expected, they rested a number of players since they had already qualified for the next round and this game was a dead rubber. The biggest talking point in the Portuguese lineup was not an omission, but rather the inclusion of 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo who perhaps would have been better served with a rest ahead of the round of 16.
Portugal would come to regret the decision to start Ronaldo, as he produced one of his worst performances in a Portugal shirt, missing Portugal's best chance of the game besides the goal, and contributing to Korea's equaliser.
Portugal looked like they would not miss the rested players too much early in the game, as they dominated Korea, despite the Koreans needing to win more than they did. They eventually took the lead through Ricardo Horta, who reacted fastest to Diogo Dalot's cutback to score Portugal's opener.
Portugal were cruising and missed a clear-cut chance to put themselves 2-0 up before Korea scored against the run of play from a corner kick through centreback Young-Gwon Kim, aided by a deflection off Ronaldo, who turned his back on the corner and inadvertently set up the Ulsan Hyundai defender to draw Korea level going into the break.
As the minutes of the second half ebbed away, so did any realistic chances of Korea reaching the round of 16 as they struggled to get the ball off Portugal, who finished the second half with 67% possession.
They resorted to counterattacks and shots from distance, hoping one of their Hail Marys would eventually produce the miracle they were praying for, and the goal finally came from a brilliant counterattack carefully orchestrated by Korea's most recognisable player.
With time running out, Tottenham's Son Heung-Min broke at pace and kept his composure to pick out a sensational pass through the legs of Dalot to Hwang Hee-Chan, who coolly slotted past Diogo Costa to send the Korean fans into a frenzy in the third minute of added time.
What next for Korea and Portugal?
Korea pick an unlikely spot in the round of 16 and could be set to face Brazil in the next round, while Portugal win the group despite the defeat and will face the runners-up in Group G.