DONETSK - Spain's 'Tiki Taka' passing was off-tempo at the Donbass Arena but the holders, unable to hurt Portugal in 120 minutes of stalemate, broke their hearts in a penalty shootout to reach the final of Euro 2012 on Wednesday.
Substitute Cesc Fabregas converted the winning spot-kick, off the inside of the post, to set off wild celebrations from the Spanish players.
"When I stepped up to take the penalty I said to the ball that we had to make history and that it shouldn't let me down," said an ecstatic Fabregas after Spain's 4-2 spot-kick victory following a 0-0 draw after extra time.
For Portugal, who had fought hard all night, questions will be asked why their top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo did not take a kick as they fell to their third semi-final defeat in four appearances at the stage.
Portugal had won their previous two penalty shootouts in major tournament matches.
But coach Paulo Bento was proud of the way his team went toe-to-toe with the world champions, even outdoing them in terms of possession.
"If I had to choose a way of losing I wouldn't choose this way... Spain is a great team but we can leave with our heads high," he said.
"We can be sure that we can compete with any team at any tournament."
Spain have now equalled West Germany's European record from the early 1970s by reaching three consecutive major tournament finals and victory in Kiev on Sunday would make them the first team to win three in a row.
But the watching Germans and Italians, who meet in Warsaw on Thursday, will have taken heart from a below-par performance from the Spaniards against a pressing Portugal team.