It was definitely the greatest ever comeback — it might even have been the greatest game of all time.
Barcelona were given mission impossible and they delivered with 30 seconds to spare — just enough time to get their entire bench of celebrating substitutes and coaching staff off the pitch — and for a heartbroken Paris Saint-Germain to take the restart.
‘This is a crazy sport,’ said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique. ‘There is nothing else like it. In the 41st minute (of the second half) we were out, but people kept believing and with the two substitutes we got the goal.
‘I saw Sergi Roberto score a lot of goals when he was a kid, but I often joke with him that these days he couldn’t score under a rainbow. Tonight was different.’
Barcelona had become the first team ever to turn around a 4-0 first-leg defeat and they had done it in the most extraordinary fashion with a 6-1 second-leg win.
It wasn’t even a miracle ‘made in Messi’.
He had played his part with the third goal of the night, but the win owed as much to Luis Suarez’s insatiable belief in the impossible, Neymar’s jaw-dropping genius and the never-say-die attitude of a team who used to woo the world with its football but will now be remembered for its guts too.
Suarez started it all after only three minutes when he flicked a header over PSG keeper Kevin Trapp. It was his 64th goal in 65 games in the Nou Camp. This stadium has proved too big for many strikers but he has had the measure of it from day one.
Five minutes before the break the second goal came. Iniesta back-heeled the ball from the byline into a crowded six-yard box and Layvin Kurzawa put it past his own goalkeeper.
PSG manager Unai Emery’s half-time team talk was set now: ‘We’re definitely going to have to score, lads’.
The Barcelona supporters were singing, ‘Yes we can’ as the half-time whistle was blown and five minutes after the restart they were believing more than ever.
Thomas Meunier dived head-first to stop Neymar getting around him and, when the Brazilian ran into his head and tumbled, the Barcelona players were convinced they had a penalty.
The referee hesitated but with Suarez and company sprinting to the official behind the goal, Deniz Aytekin conferred and pointed to the spot.
Messi had scored all five of his penalties so far this season. He made it six, slotting high into the top corner and Barcelona were now a goal from levelling the tie.
Then came the twist that no home supporter wanted to see. Edinson Cavani first hit the post from Meunier’s cross and was then given another chance on 62 minutes and this time he made no mistake.
No one has scored more goals in Europe this season and, with Gerard Pique floored, he buried a shot into the roof of Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s net with the outside of his foot.
Angel Di Maria came on for PSG and could have made it 3-2 on the night when he raced clear only to shoot wide.
The image of his love-heart celebration was still haunting Barcelona from the first leg and it would have been cruel had he extended the aggregate lead.
No one could have sensed what was coming and how costly the miss was to prove.
With two minutes left Neymar curled the perfect free-kick past Trapp to make it 4-1 on the night. Barcelona still needed two goals but Neymar wasn’t beaten and, when Suarez was pushed over in the area by Marquinhos, the Brazilian slammed home the penalty.
The penalty award was dubious but the officials had been carried along by the wave of emotion that seemed to be carrying Barcelona into the quarter-finals.
The players turned to the supporters for one last increase in the decibel levels and Ter Stegen went forward for a Messi free-kick. PSG cleared it but Ter Stegen was then fouled inside the PSG half and another free-kick was awarded
The ball was cleared again and surely the Barcelona beast was dead. But with 94 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock, it twitched one last time.
Arda Turan had come on as a late substitute for the exhausted Iniesta and he pinged a hopeful ball into the six-yard box.
Roberto, another of the late substitutes, ghosted round the back of the PSG defence to score past Trapp. ‘I threw myself at the ball with everything I had,’ said the midfielder. ‘I didn’t know whether I was offside or not.’
The flag stayed down and the entire Barcelona bench ran on.
Iniesta led the way and was one of the last off the pitch as PSG’s broken players took the restart. Barcelona were through and history had been made.
‘It was like a horror film at times,’ said Enrique.
‘But with a happy ending. This was all about belief. We never lost it. We knew we would need six goals because we expected them to score. It’s a victory that belongs to the players.
‘They never gave up and you can imagine what it does to our season. We thought we were out.’
They aren’t and no one will forget the extraordinary way they stayed in.