Thembi Kgatlana scored a stoppage-time winner to ensure South Africa reached the World Cup last 16 for the first time thanks to a 3-2 comeback victory against Italy.
Kgatlana struck in the second minute of added time at the Sky Stadium in Wellington as Banyana Banyana secured their first World Cup win to finish second in Group G behind winners Sweden in thrilling fashion.
Arianna Caruso’s early penalty for Italy was cancelled out by Benedetta Orsi’s own goal before Hildah Magaia put South Africa ahead in the second half.
Caruso equalised following a lengthy VAR check and that would have been enough to send the Italians through, but the impressive Kgatlana had the last word at the death.
Italy, who were thrashed 5-0 by Sweden in their previous match after their opening 1-0 win against Argentina, took an early lead after Chiara Beccari was adjudged by VAR to have been fouled inside the area by Karabo Dhlamini.
Caruso calmly converted the resulting spot-kick and Italy went on to dominate the opening half-hour.
South Africa served warning of their threat when midfielder Robyn Moodaly’s curling effort from outside the box struck a post and they were gifted an equaliser after 32 minutes.
Italy’s Orsi failed to check goalkeeper Francesca Durante had strayed off her goal-line and the defender’s attempted back-pass from 25 yards out flew straight into the bottom corner.
La Azzurre went close to a swift response as Beccari headed Lisa Boattin’s cross against a post following a corner and the first half ended all-square.
South Africa pushed forward in greater numbers early in the second period, with Kgatlana’s pace and trickery causing the Italians problems.
The Racing Louisville winger set up her side’s second goal, cutting in from the left and slipping in Magaia to fire South Africa into a 67th-minute lead with an angled, left-footed finish.
Kgatlana’s header was then brilliantly saved by Durante as Banyana Banyana looked to extend their lead before Italy hit back.
Cristiana Girelli won a near-post header following a corner and the ball struck Caruso on the hip on its way across the line to haul them level in the 74th minute, following another lengthy VAR check.
The unmarked Girelli then spurned the chance to regain the lead for Italy soon after when her low shot was saved by South Africa goalkeeper Kaylin Swart.
It was a crucial save as South Africa broke forward in the second minute of added time to snatch a famous win, with Magaia’s cross picking out Kgatlana, who made no mistake with a side-footed finish.