Controversy reigned again at Soccer City as Carlos Tevez's opener for Argentina against Mexico was yards offside. However, after Gonzalo Higuain's second, no-one could argue with his rocket shot that put Argentina three up before Javier Hernandez hit back with his own stunner.
On a day to forget for match officials, the Manchester City striker benefited from an offside decision blunder that was so blatant it ranked alongside the one that denied Frank Lampard in the England game four hours previously.
The offside rule states there should be two players between the striker and the goal - there was not even one when Lionel Messi's ball found Tevez's head, and then the net to put Diego Maradona's side in front.
After the replay flashed up on the big screen angry Mexico players surrounded the Italian referee Roberto Rosetti and linesman Stefano Ayroldi but the goal stood. Mexico went into meltdown and a defensive howler by Ricardo Osorio allowed Gonzalo Higuain to make it 2-0.
It was Tevez who sewed the match up in brilliant fashion - and legitimately this time - early in the second half with Mexico left only to savour a stunning reply by Manchester United's new signing Javier Hernandez.
Until Tevez's opener Mexico had looked the better side in this clash between the Latin Americans who had fought out a terrific contest at the same stage of the 2006 finals.
That went to extra time but once again Javier Aguirre's men showed themselves to be a classy but unfortunate outfit.
Two incidents within the opening 10 minutes had Argentinian hearts in mouths. First Carlos Salcido crashed in a thunderous drive from 30 yards that Sergio Romero just touched onto the crossbar, then an equally terrific strike by Andres Guardado whisked agonisingly past the post.
For Argentina, Messi, still looking for his first goal of the tournament, had two efforts from similar positions on the left of the area, but one was blocked and the other easily held by Oscar Perez. Messi should perhaps have passed to an unmarked team-mate - maybe that elusive goal was haunting him.
Hernandez, who increasingly looks an astute signing by Sir Alex Ferguson, turned away from his marker and slammed a shot wide but then came Tevez's offside goal and Mexico lost their heads.
First, skipper Rafael Marquez earned himself a needless booking for showing his frustration, then there was real calamity when Osorio scuffed a pass across the edge of his own box, Higuain seized onto the ball and kept his cool to round Perez neatly and slide home.
Salcido raised Mexican hopes with another long-range strike, this time parried by Romero, before Angel di Maria and Tevez nearly scored but were kept at bay by desperate blocks.
Higuain really should have made it 3-0 but somehow the Real Madrid striker put a free header wide from only six yards out.
There was an unseemly melee around the officials as the teams left the pitch at half-time, with Maradona finding himself in the unusual position of peacemaker.
Any hopes Mexico had ended soon after the restart thanks to Tevez's 52nd-minute blistering strike into the top corner from 25 yards out, with the striker running to the bench for a wild embrace with Maradona.
It was left to Hernandez to rescue some pride for Mexico. The 22-year-old had just sent a header over despite being unmarked, but then he left Martin Demichelis standing with a superb turn and lashed the ball high past Romero to
give Mexico a slim lifeline.
It probably shaded Tevez's strike and will go down as one of the goals of the tournament. Argentina shut up shop after that and Mexico barely had another sniff.
Messi's increasingly desperate search for a goal continued as Perez denied him in injury time, but he will get another chance to end his drought against Germany in Cape Town next Saturday.