Colombia gave themselves breathing space at the top of 2014 Group C after goals from James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero helped them to a 2-1 win over Côte d'Ivoire, putting them three points clear of Sabri Lamouchi's side.
Both sides knew that, having won their opening matches, another victory could see them into the knockout stages by the end of the day, depending on the result of Japan-Greece, and it was to be Colombia that ultimately claimed that rich reward. Teo Gutierrez and Victor Ibarbo combined to bring the first sight of goal for the Colombians, though the former's shot was dragged wide. Carlos Sanchez then had an effort from range after the Africans failed to clear a corner, but Boubacar Barry was not deceived by the huge deflection.
The game remained tight until Juan Cuadrado released Rodriguez with a superb raking pass out onto the left wing, but when the Monaco man found Gutierrez in the middle, he fluffed his lines with the goal at his mercy. Côte d'Ivoire tested David Ospina at the other end after the goalkeeper's wayward throw gifted the ball to Serge Aurier. Quick feet saw him beat Mario Yepes, but his low shot was well saved by the Colombia 'keeper.
It was a physical encounter between the two sides, who proved a close match for each other as the first half ended goalless. Ten minutes into the second period, though, the game kicked into life, with Wilfried Bony failing to connect with a spectacular flying volley after a delightful scooped pass from Yaya Toure.
Colombia were almost the architects of their downfall as Pablo Armero's suicidal defending allowed Max Gradel in on goal, with the Elephants star only denied by Yepes' timely challenge. At the other end they were getting closer, though, as a neat ball from Rodriguez picked out Cuadrado, whose impeccable control led to a shot from a tight angle that was just turned onto the post.
However, the breakthrough did arrive when the pair switched roles. Cuadrado's whipped corner found one of the smallest men on the field in the playmaker, whose header flew in at the near post. Aurier then caused a scare when Ospina was forced to claw out his goal-bound cross, but the gap was doubled minutes later.
Serey Die was dispossessed trying to play out of defence, and when the ball fell to Gutierrez, he was able to feed substitute Quintero. The youngster, in turn, slotted expertly past Barry.
Colombia couldn't enjoy their cushion for long, however, as Gervinho produced a moment of magic to pull Côte d'Ivoire back into contention three minutes later. Skipping inside from the left wing, the Roma wide-man danced between two, then dropped a shoulder past Sanchez, before beating Ospina at his near post.
The pair had never met before and the second half transformed the game into a pulsating encounter, and while Côte d'Ivoire pushed hard for a winning goal, the record now reads one-nil in favour of Colombia in a result that lifted them into the last 16 by day's end.