Lethal Luis Suarez fired Uruguay to a 2-1 victory over South Korea to set up a quarter-final clash with Ghana.
Suarez pounced on a goalkeeper howler to put his side in front, but Uruguay were punished for their negative approach after the break when Lee Chung-Yong levelled.
However, a moment of sheer brilliance would eventually decide the game, Suarez bending in one of the goals of the tournament to put the South Americans in the last eight.
It was the Koreans who almost opened the scoring after just five minutes, but Park Chu-Young’s beautifully struck free-kick slipped the outside of the post with Fernando Muslera beaten.
A minute later Diego Forlan failed to test Jung Sung-Ryong at the other end with a tame volley after some shaky South Korean defending, but it would only take another 60 seconds for them to break the deadlock.
Forlan gathered a ball out wide and sent in a low, bouncing cross that Sung-Ryong missed completely after coming if his line, and Suarez arrived late to net his 54th goal of past 12 months.
Suarez failed to trouble Sung-Ryong with a header later in the half, while Cha Du-Ri’s well-struck effort from distance cleared the crossbar as the South Koreans failed to break down a stubborn Uruguayan defence.
They were fortunate not to be two down at the break when Maxi Pareira’s shot struck the outstretched arm of Kim Jung-Woo, but no penalty was given.
Having survived one scare, they almost handed the Uruguayans a second five minutes after the restart; Jung-Woo’s poor pass gifting Suarez possession and he opted to shoot rather than play in Edinson Cavani, and the chance was wasted.
South Korea began to enjoy plenty of possession and Chu-Young wasted their best chance of the opening hour, blazing over the bar after the ball dropped to him in the box.
They continued to pour forward looking for the equaliser, as Uruguay seemed content to sit back and defend their lead, and Park Ji-Sung failed to trouble Muslera with a header from Du-Ri’s cross.
However, South Korea got the goal they deserved with 22 minutes remaining, becoming the first team to score against the Uruguayans in the tournament.
Muslera race off his line and flapped at a cross, allowing Chung-Yong to head home the equaliser.
Chu-Yong almost handed his side the lead two minutes later, racing onto a wonderful pass but his weak shot went straight into the arms of a grateful Muslera.
Having spent the previous 20 minutes in their own half of the field Uruguay went back on the attack, and Suarez had a shot tipped over before seeing a free header bounce harmlessly.
However, the prolific Ajax star was not going to waste his next chance.
The South Koreans headed clear a corner, but the ball was played back in to Suarez and he cut inside his man before producing a sensational curling effort that went in off the inside of Sung-Ryong’s left-hand post.
Lee Dong Gook should have forced extra time with a late chance but, having been put through by a nicely weighted pass, the former Middlesbrough striker scuffed his shot and the ball was hacked clear after it skidded off the inside of Muslera’s legs and spun towards goal.
Uruguay: Muslera, Lugano, Godin (Victorino 46), Fucile, Cavani, Suarez (A Fernandez 84), Forlan, A Pereira (Lodeiro 74), Perez, M Pereira, Arevalo Rios.
Goals: Suarez 8, 80
South Korea: Sung-Ryong, Yong-Hyung, Ji-Sung, Jung-Woo, Chu-Young, Young-Pyo, Jae-Sung (Dong-Gook 61), Jung-Soo, Sung-Yueng (Ki-Hun 85), Ghung-Yong, Du-Ri.
Goal: Chung-Yong 68
Bookings: Yong-Hyung, Jung-Woo, Du-Ri (South Korea)