Italy ended their penalty shootout jinx to win the World Cup, but the triumph was overshadowed by a moment of madness from France captain Zinedine Zidane.
An enthralling final finished 1-1 after Azzurri centre-back Marco Materazzi made up for conceding a seventh-minute spot-kick which Zidane converted, by powering home an equaliser 12 minutes later.
The goalscorers were then involved in the match's main talking point, as Zidane was shown a red card during the second period of extra-time for butting the Italian on the chest.
The match was the last of the veteran playmaker's illustrious career and should have been a celebration of his talents, but instead it ended with him trudging off in disgrace after a spectacular loss of self-control.
Italy could not make the most of their numerical advantage in the final ten minutes of extra-time and the World Cup was decided by penalties for the second time.
The Azzurri experienced defeat to Brazil in the previous shootout in 1994, but this time they produced a perfect display of penalty taking.
Substitute David Trezeguet hit France's second kick against the bar to give Marcello Lippi's men the advantage, and when Fabio Grosso made it five out of five for Italy, the wild celebrations began.
The evening had started so well for Raymond Domenech's side, when Materazzi's trip on Florent Malouda saw them awarded an early spot-kick.
Zidane stepped up and coolly opted for a chipped penalty, which hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down over the line.
The Azzurri hit back strongly and levelled in the 19th minute when Materazzi rose above Patrick Vieira to meet Andrea Pirlo's corner and planted a header past Fabien Barthez.
The Italians controlled the remainder of the first half and almost grabbed a second when Luca Toni headed another Pirlo corner against the crossbar.
France came out stronger after the break, with Thierry Henry and Malouda constant threats.
However, Fabio Cannavaro and Materazzi held firm at the heart of defence and it was Italy who went closest to scoring when Toni headed home from a free-kick from the disappointing Francesco Totti, only to see an offside flag go up.
France were again the more adventurous team in extra-time and the industrious Franck Ribery and Zidane both went close to finding a winner.
But then came Zidane's downfall and that dramatic penalty shootout that saw Italy crowned world champions.