Argentina defeated the Netherlands on penalties and will face Germany in Sunday's FIFA World Cup final.
After the eight goals on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte, the Sao Paulo semi-final was to be the first in World Cup history to end 0-0. Four nights ago the Netherlands saw off Costa Rica on penalties after another goalless encounter, but this time neither Ron Vlaar nor Wesley Sneijder could convert and Argentina and Germany will be the first nations to meet in three World Cup finals.
In the 15th minute a Lionel Messi free-kick from just outside the box was smothered by Jasper Cillessen, resuming his goalkeeping role after Tim Krul's shoot-out cameo against Costa Rica on Saturday. Still, it was clear from the tight opening that a repeat of the extraordinary first semi-final was not on the cards.
Robin van Persie, fit despite a stomach bug that kept him out of training yesterday, was kept subdued while injured Ángel Di María was missed by Argentina. Daryl Janmaat, the starting right-back in the group stage, took over from Bruno Martins Indi in the second half, but the balance of the game did not change.
Gonzalo Higuaín was unable to direct a header on target from close range in a rare opening just before the hour. Another Dutch change was made as Jordy Clasie replaced the more defensive Nigel de Jong, and the Netherlands' tempo increased a little.
In the last ten minutes Argentina introduced Rodrigo Palacio and Sergio Agüero, who did have a sight of goal only to be blocked by the excellent Vlaar. As the game entered added time, Sneijder's deft back-heel gave Arjen Robben an opening but for a superb sliding tackle by Javier Mascherano.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's extra-time arrival meant Krul could not appear for the penalties, which duly arrived when neither Palacio nor fellow substitute Maxi Rodríguez could force the ball past Cillessen from close range. Sergio Romero saved the first kick from Vlaar and then the third Dutch effort from Sneijder; Rodríguez was to hit the winner in off the bar. The Netherlands now travel to Brasilia for Saturday's third-place play-off with hosts Brazil.