Goals from Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy were enough to seal a place in the last 16 for Holland and condemn the Ivory Coast to pack their bags for home. The World Cup will be poorer for their departure.
That is not to begrudge the Dutch their place in the knockout phase.
They tackle Argentina on Wednesday in what promises to be a titanic battle for top spot in Group C and with their obvious strength in midfield and attack, Marco van Basten's men are plausible contenders to do what the legendary Johan Cruyff could not manage and lift the biggest prize in football for the first time.
But there will not be a better side who exit the tournament at the first hurdle than the Elephants from Africa. It is the vagaries of FIFA's seeding system and a 'Group of Death' draw which has crucified them.
Such was the persistence with which they pushed forward at the end, the Dutch fans were anxiously chewing their fingernails by the final whistle, grateful for Van Persie's nerveless goal-line clearance 12 minutes from time when Didier Drogba's header bounced up towards his chest.
When they reflect on a momentous World Cup campaign, the Ivory Coast will rue their failure to seize opportunities as their opponents have done.
After being handed a lesson in finishing by Argentina a week ago, they were anxious to avoid a repeat, yet, unhappily for the Africans, that is precisely how it panned out.
Yet again, some of their approach play was outstanding. Once more, Drogba proved a tough man to tie down. Just as in Hamburg, the Elephants found themselves two goals adrift, this time inside half an hour. And, for the second week in succession they pulled a goal back but could not find an equaliser.
In fairness to the Dutch, they had offered more in attack themselves than Argentina had and Kolo Toure had twice been called upon to make decisive interventions before they went in front.
But when Toure took Van Persie down on the edge of the area, his Arsenal team-mate exacted maximum revenge, driving a firm shot past the wall and beyond Jean-Jacques Tizie, who was beaten by the sheer speed of the shot.
Within four minutes, the Ivorians were further adrift as Arjen Robben found Van Nistelrooy with a superb reverse pass. It appeared that Van Nistelrooy was offside. In fact, a stray defender, fully 20 yards away, was playing him on.
Whatever the truth behind the striker's disagreement with Sir Alex Ferguson that threatens to end his Manchester United career, it can have nothing to do with his finishing. Given time to pick his spot, Van Nistelrooy chose high, just inside the near post and rammed home the first World Cup finals goal of his illustrious career.
Bravely, the Ivory Coast responded but when Tottenham target Didier Zokora literally rattled the crossbar with a thunderous 30-yard strike, few could have blamed them if their heads had dropped in utter dejection.
But the Africans are not just a bunch of talented individuals. They have character too.
Invited to run at a Dutch defence perceived as the weak link in Van Basten's squad, Bakary Kone took maximum advantage, driving into the box before shooting across Edwin van der Sar and into the far corner.
The Ivorians comeback would have been complete before half-time had Drogba not offered Giovanni van Bronckhorst the opportunity to cut out a pass which would have left Arouna Kone with only Van der Sar to beat after Mark van Bommel had been dispossessed 45 yards from his own goal.
By then, Drogba had been booked for leaving his foot in on Van der Sar, a caution which will cost him an appearance against Serbia and Montenegro on Wednesday.
Thanks to some obdurate Dutch defending and wayward finishing, that is now a dead encounter, although one which does offer the opportunity of a much-deserved victory given the Serbs miserable form.
Holland will argue they always kept the Africans at arms' length, even though their opponents dominated the second half.
Yet, if Van Persie had not been on hand to clear when Drogba's header bounced into the six-yard box and towards the Dutch goal, the Ivory Coast would have had a draw. And nobody could have complained at that.