Portugal became the first UEFA European Championship host nation since France in 1984 to qualify for the final after a headed goal by Ronaldo and Maniche's stunning strike saw off the challenge of the Netherlands, despite Jorge Andrade's own goal.
Just as their Dutch opponents did 16 years ago, Portugal's feat was achieved after losing their opening match. Yet since that defeat by Greece Luiz Felipe Scolari's men have grown in stature and tonight, led by Luís Figo, inspired by Deco and anchored by a resolute defence, they were worthy winners.
With Pauleta restored to the attack in place of Nuno Gomes, Portugal fielded the team that started their final group match against Spain at the same stadium. The Netherlands called on Wilfred Bouma to replace the injured Frank de Boer in central defence, with Marc Overmars preferred to Andy van der Meyde on the right wing.
With the Netherlands' forward momentum foundering on the edge of the penalty area and Ruud van Nistelrooy isolated in attack, Portugal captain Figo provided the game's first telling cross after ten minutes. His teasing ball eluded Edwin van der Sar but was just too quick for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Not long after the two captains, Figo and Phillip Cocu, went head to head, with Figo stealing a metre on Cocu before squaring the ball for Pauleta, but Bouma's outstretched leg averted the danger. However, on 26 minutes, Portugal took the lead as Ronaldo headed in Deco's inswinging corner. It was no more than they deserved.
The Netherlands responded through a typically driving run by Edgar Davids, whose cross was headed partially clear by Ricardo Carvalho. The ball fell invitingly for Overmars but his volley flew well over, and soon after that Clarence Seedorf was close to connecting with another Davids cross.
At the other end Deco combined on the right with Maniche, whose low cross found Pauleta but Van der Sar was able to parry the striker's close-range shot. Van Nistelrooy then had the ball in the net, only for the raised offside flag to curtail celebrations.
Figo, having his best game of the tournament, then found himself with only Giovanni van Bronckhorst to beat. He stepped inside the full-back before curling a sublime left-foot shot against the far post as the game headed breathlessly for half-time.
Oranje coach Dick Advocaat withdrew Overmars at the break in favour of striker Roy Makaay, and another attack-minded player, Rafael van der Vaart, was added in place of Bouma soon afterwards. By then Portugal should have been two goals up, Pauleta shooting straight at Van der Sar when clean through following goalkeeper Ricardo's long clearance.
The home crowd did not have much longer to wait. On 58 minutes Maniche nearly raised the roof with a stupendous angled drive from the corner of the area that flew into the top corner with Van der Sar, like the rest of us, a startled spectator.
But just as the party was starting, disaster struck for Portugal. After Seedorf had fired narrowly wide, Andrade diverted a Van Bronckhorst cross over Ricardo and into his own goal to give the visitors unexpected hope. A minute later Makaay was centimetres away from heading in Seedorf's free-kick.
Ronaldo gave way to defensive midfield player Petit and Nuno Gomes replaced Pauleta as Portugal looked to consolidate. Maniche, set up by Nuno Gomes, might have increased the lead but his shot was blocked while Deco was denied a third in the final moments. By now, though, time was already on their side and Lisbon was getting ready for another night to remember.