With only minutes left in Bergamo, it appeared that Atalanta were on course for a historic and crucial victory over Manchester United in the Champions League.
A win would have put La Dea in command of Group F with only two games remaining and leave them on the precipice of qualification to the knockouts.
Yet, as has so often been the case, victory was snatched from them by the familiar figure of Cristiano Ronaldo upon his return to Italy following his move to Manchester United from Juventus in the summer and the clash ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Portuguese star had earlier cancelled out a first half Josip Ilicic goal, but just as Duvan Zapata’s strike after the break looked destined to hand Atalanta the win, Ronaldo’s magnificent volley from outside the area in stoppage time put paid to that.
With the pressure mounting on Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in recent weeks, Ronaldo has bailed him out on more than one occasion this term but it felt particularly cruel after a second half in which Atalanta looked to be in control.
Despite the dropped points, which will sting all the more after the 3-2 collapse at Old Trafford in the corresponding fixture last month, the Orobici can focus on the positives.
Qualification is within reach and a win against Young Boys next time out could set up a decisive clash against Villarreal in the Group F finale, in front of a passionate and roaring crowd at the Gewiss Stadium. Indeed, they are only two points behind the Spanish club and Manchester United and have the opportunity to move back into the driving seat.
Similarly, in Colombia striker Zapata they have one of the most fearsome and reliable attackers, ably assisted by Ilicic and compatriot Luis Muriel, despite his disappointing cameo from the bench. Zapata was a handful for United’s defence all evening and his goal after an excellent run into space was no less than he deserved.
Indeed, the former Udinese hitman has taken his Champions League tally for the club to five goals and as many assists after teeing up Ilicic, and whilst he is in this kind of form there is always hope.
Ultimately, Atalanta were undone by the brilliance of Ronaldo, and there are certainly many who can empathise after finding themselves in a similar position. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side had the beating of the Premier League club until the death, and must now dust themselves off and focus on Villarreal and passage into the next phase.