On a feisty night full of tantrums, Argentina kept launching toys out of their pram even as Lautaro Martinez thrashed in his winner to send them through 4-3 on penalties. It had been 120 minutes of argy bargy, with a ball smashed into the dugout and bookings all over the pitch as a so-far serene World Cup finally lost its rag.
But then Nicolas Otamendi took matters to an embarrassing new low. As the deciding penalty went in, the Benfica defender arched his run to ensure he was within 5ft of the bereft Dutch players and then cupped his ears. The toddler-level antics, caught brilliantly in a picture, might just have surrendered Argentina's status as the romantics' favourites at this tournament.
The heated scenes even continued post match. Lionel Messi was seen in an angry confrontation with Edgar Davids and Louis van Gaal.
Even the normally affable Emiliano Martinez was winning few friends after angrily hitting out at the referee and Van Gaal after his penalty-saving masterclass.
"The ref was giving everything for them," he said, claiming Antonio Mateu Lahoz had given 10 minutes of added time "for no reason". "He was giving free-kicks outside the box for them, like two, three times," he added. "He just wanted them to score, that's basically it. So, hopefully we don’t have him that ref anymore. He's useless."
Then he turned on Van Gaal over his comments prior to the game that he was looking for a "penalty killer". "I heard Van Gaal saying 'we've got an advantage in penalties, if we go to penalties we win'," said Martinez. "I think he needs to keep his mouth shut."
In an ill-tempered tie, Spanish referee Mateu doled out 14 cautions as the players from both sides were involved in more than one melee.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni called the game "ugly" and Messi was also critical of Mateu, telling Argentine TV: "I don't want to talk about the referee because you can't be honest.
"If you talk they sanction you; Fifa must think about it, they can't put a referee who isn't up to the task for these instances."
In a side of Messi rarely seen, he also broke off from his post-match interview on the field to shout abuse at the scorer of the Netherlands' two goals, Wout Weghorst.
"What are you looking at, stupid?" Messi was heard saying.
Messi's anger, like Martinez was also towards Van Gaal.
"I feel disrespected by Van Gaal after his pre-game comments and some Dutch players spoke too much during the game," Messi told reporters.
"Van Gaal sells that he plays good football and then he puts forwards in the box and starts throwing long balls. We deserved to go through and that's what happened."
'Diego watching over us'
It is only the second time Argentina has reached the last four since 1990. In 2014, Messi was part of the team that lost to Germany in the final and he looks in the mood to get there again in a tournament that he is turning into his own personal highlight reel.
Messi and his teammates hung around on the field for 20 minutes at the end, taking turns dancing and jumping up and down in front of Argentina's celebrating, scarf-waving fans.
Messi said the late Diego Maradona was looking over the team.
"Diego is watching us from heaven," Messi said of the former Argentina captain and coach who died two years ago. "He is pushing us. I hope it stays like that until the end."
Argentina win brings widespread PR relief
There had been no shortage of inspired moments to savour in a classic World Cup ding-dong, not least Holland's equaliser deep into stoppage time.
Against the same opponent as that Dennis Bergkamp strike in 1998, the Dutch attackers summoned the last levels of last-ditch audacity. Version 2022 did not involve a long ball pumped forward like its predecessor, although there had been plenty of those too as the Dutch had reverted to Wimbledon-style tactics amid their desperation for an equaliser.
Instead, the beauty of this equaliser lay inside the brain of 24-year-old Teun Koopmeiners, a midfielder for Serie A club Atalanta. Nobody inside the 88,000 Lusail Stadium saw it coming as he placed the ball down 20 yards out, dummied to shoot but instead rolled the ball impudently towards the wall and into Wout Weghort's path. The Burnley striker then swivelled to poke home.
The glorious moment would be no avail, however, as Aston Villa stopper Martinez then took centre stage on penalties, saving from Virgil van Dijk and then Koopmeiners as the Dutch fell on penalties to Argentina in a repeat of the 2014 semi-final.
You could almost sense the relief for Qatar given Argentina have by far the largest fanbase here in Doha. The big guns going deep into their tournament are a PR necessity for the nation's Supreme Committee, as fan numbers in Doha are already significantly lower than hoped since the group stages.
But recent events had alarmed the box-office bean counters even more. The posterboys for this tournament, the most common faces plastered even at the shopping mall and metro station nearest from where the final takes place in just over a week's time, had been starting to fall.
In the last-16, Portugal found out they were better off without Cristiano Ronaldo in their starting lineup. Then Neymar was sent packing by Croatia as the tears flowed for the footballing romantics.
But the huge 100ft mural of Messi hanging on a skyscraper in West Bay is safe for now. And unlike the Argentina players, Van Gaal was relatively gracious in his response to ill-tempered scenes. "There were words said between the players and that led to an emotional reaction - I cannot say a word about it," he said. "I wasn't on the pitch."