The game began in the most dramatic of circumstances when Matteo Gentili shoved Krisztian Nemeth in the box in the opening minute. Up stepped skipper Vladimir Koman for the resulting penalty and he sent Vincenzo Fiorillo the wrong way to give Hungary an early lead. The goal not only gave the Hungarians the best possible start, it also represented the quickest strike of Egypt 2009 so far.
Nemeth went close shortly before the quarter-hour mark when his right footed shot was clawed away by the keeper. But then the Italians stepped up a gear. Mattia Mustachio's corner was headed narrowly wide by Francesco Bini and Claudio Della Penna saw a shot which flashed dangerously across the face of the goal.
Although Hungary looked dangerous whenever forward, it was Italy who were asking all the questions in the first half. Bini went close again from another Della Penna corner and Gianvito Misuraca also forced Peter Gulasci into a good low save. That was Misuraca's last action of the match, as he was replaced at half-time by a more physical presence in Umberto Eusepi.
Andrea Mazzarani went close with a low drive that whistled just past the post eight minutes after the break, but it was Hungary who had the best chance of the early stages of the second half. An intelligent run from Koman caught Italy unawares and he had the opportunity to shoot at goal or square it to Andras Gosztonyi. The skipper opted for the latter, but with the ball flashing across the six-yard box, Bini slid to clear in the nick of time and the danger passed.
With time ticking away and a further two attacking substitutions made by Francesco Rocca, Marco Calderoni embarked on a solo run from defence before slipping the ball to Mustacchio on the edge of the box. The two-goal hero against Italy hit a low drive which Gulacsi held at the second attempt. Hungary countered with pace and Gosztonyi forced a similar save out of Fiorillo from a similar distance.
Things went from bad to worse for Italy when Gentili hauled down Nemeth on the edge of the box and referee Oscar Ruiz produced a second yellow card to the defender with 19 minutes still to play. But while there was still one goal in it, Italy had a chance - and they took it with eight minutes of normal time remaining. Substitute Giacomo Bonaventura threaded a delightful throughball to Antonio Mazzotta in the box and the left-back finished like a centre forward.
Italy were reduced to nine men two minutes later when Francesco Bini was given a straight red card for kicking out at Koman. But the two-men numerical disadvantage did not last long as Adrian Szekeres was also dismissed for what appeared to be an elbow on Mustachio. Yet before the card was produced, the referee sent both coaches to the stands for dissent.
After a nervy period of added time, the coach blew the full-time whistle to herald that extra time was required. Despite the nine men, Bonaventura forced a world-class save from Gulasci and Adam Dudas had to be alert to slice Mazzarani's shot over the crossbar. In the second period, it was Hungary who were on the offensive and Marko Futacs brought a superb save out of Fiorilli with a shot from 12 yards.
In the 112th minute, Koman found Nemeth with a delightful pass and the striker made no mistake, slotting past the keeper with incredible grace. But just as the 31,000-strong crowd were drawing breath, Italy equalised in the very next minute. Bonaventura ran at the Hungary defence and unleashed a shot which flew past the keeper.
The Suez crowd, who had adopted Italy for the match could not believe it - and nether could the journalists from both countries in the media tribune. But there was still two major dramas left. A second yellow to Michelangelo Albertazzi reduced the Italians to eight men and with their defence stretched to the maximum. Hungary took advantage to silence the crowd.
A long ball was played from the right into space which Nemeth chased down. The No9 was first to it and, once again, he showed great composure to steer the ball home. It was the final play of an enthralling contest - and one which leaves Hungary facing Ghana in the final four.