Striker Luis Suarez scored a spectacular winner to earn Uruguay a place in the World Cup quarters-finals at the expense of South Korea.
It will be the first time since 1970 the two-time winners have reached the last eight, although they will feel fortunate to have ended their barren run having spent long periods of the game defending at the rain-drenched Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The South Koreans, who reached the semi-finals in 2002, were effervescent in their attacking third but flaky in defence, and that was exposed as early as the eighth minute.
Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan was fed on the left and played a low ball across the six-yard area which was misjudged by keeper Jung Sung-Ryong and his statuesque defence but not by Suarez at the far post, who calmly slotted in for his second goal of the competition.
But apart from a penalty appeal when Alvaro Pereira's shot appeared to be blocked by the arm of Ki Sung-Yueng, it was the South Koreans who looked most likely to score for the remainder of the match as Uruguay set up camp in their own half.
Many of South Korea's good chances fell to star striker Park Chu-Young who was feverishly looking to add to his goal against Nigeria in the group stages.
And it could have been Uruguay chasing the game as early as the fifth minute had his free-kick curled three inches to the left rather than rattle Fernando Muslera's right-hand post.
The Monaco forward also went close with a fizzing 25-yard effort that swerved two yards wide before smashing a half-volley over the bar from inside the area after the break, when he should have made the Uruguay number one at least flinch.
But the South Koreans' luck finally changed for the better on 68 minutes when, from a free-kick, Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong pounced on Mauricio Victorino's attempted headed clearance, to nod in from eight yards.
It was the first goal Uruguay had conceded in the tournament and they came close to conceding a second when Lee Chung-Yong failed to put any venom into his shot inside the area after he was beautifully played in by captain Park Ji-Sung.
With the rain now teeming down inside the Port Elizabeth venue, it appeared that a mistake rather than a piece of skill would win the game - but the quality of 23-year-old Suarez ensured that the match would be remembered for something out of the top drawer.
With 10 minutes remaining, the potent Ajax forward lurked on the fringes of the 18-yard area as a corner was swung in from the right. He cut in from the left before curling in as sweet-a-strike as any in the tournament so far to leave keeper Jung Sung-Ryong rooted as the ball clipped the post on its way in.
The South Koreans pressed and should have taken the game into extra-time, but substitute Lee Dong-Gook's weak shot squirmed under the wet jersey of Muslera before it was comfortably cleared.
Uruguay will now play Ghana in the last eight after the Black Stars beat second round opponents the United States 2-1 after extra-time.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
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