The world was running out of hope.
Shame was grasping for glory, preparing to clutch it in its filthy hands, when up stepped a true hero.
Andres Iniesta doesn't look like a hero. He looks like an unassuming vacation waiter.
But just as the game was sinking into the ignominy of penalties, just as the game of football was sinking into the hands of more crude cynics, Iniesta had the good fortune to see a chance fall to his right foot.
With one glorious smite of that foot, he gave Spain its first ever World Cup.
He also saved football.
For 115 minutes, the World Cup Final had been the Artist fighting the Corporation. It had been talent fighting subterfuge.
It had been beauty taking on the repulsive.
One team came to play. The other, only to win.
Not once during this game could one believe that the good could triumph over the bad, the ugly, the venal, the cynical and the supposedly realistic.
The game began with the Dutch expressing their intentions to offer brutality as their route to vitality.
After something of a twisted assault by van Bronckhorst, leading to a free kick, Sergio Ramos offered a beautifully twisted header that Stekelenburg saved very well.
The vuvuzelas blew extra hard. So did the Spanish as they tried to blow the Dutch house down.
Spain tried to tiptoe through the tulips.
They tried to saunter through the scything.
Then the yellow cards began to come out.
First, Robin Van Persie, for little more than purses at dawn.
Then Spain's Carles Puyol, again for a challenge that looked worse than the fine ESPN HD replay showed that it really was.
But then Mark Van Bommel, he who would choose to enforce a strict line at a Charity Sale by kicking every single person in it, offered a rather complete assault to Iniesta's legs.
After him, it was Spain's Sergio Ramos, whose scything of Kuyt, was executed using nothing more frightening than a trowel.
Before the game, Kuyt had promised that Holland would take the game to the Spanish. There was little evidence of that in the first 25 minutes. The Dutch seemed more content, or merely only able, to disrupt.
If they took the game to the Spanish, it was with AK-47s, truncheons, spikes and hammers.
Midway through the first half, Holland's Nigel De Jong offered a moment of complete and utter violence that should have led to his immediate expulsion.
Nigel De Jong offered a kung-fu kick straight to the chest of Xabi Alonso. This wasn't anodyne. It was David Carradine.
This was clear, malignant and reckless. This deserved his immediate expulsion via the nearest airfield, never mind the nearest door to the locker room.
The referee, Englishman Howard Webb, cowered with the yellow card rather than raging with the red.
With this he gave the Dutch permission to continue casting an appalling odor over the game. It allowed to the Dutch to feel they had just a little more rope with which Spanish throats could be choked.
For a country that had once been famous for the beauty of its football, even if it was rarely a football that won the ultimate game, this was shame gone wild.
While Sneijder barely saw the ball, Van Bommel continued to express his need to succeed Jason Statham in some loud and violent Hollywood movie.
Worse, Sneijder, normally a creative force, seemed so moved by his team's embrace of the cudgel that he himself managed to raise a foot to groin-level in a very clumsy assault on Busquets.
As the second half began, Spain seemed to insist that right would defeat might.
They tried to pass the ball. They tried to beat their man. They tried, in short, to play football.
Xavi and Iniesta continued to weave patterns, while the likes of Heitinga continued to offer crude, late assaults.
In the 62nd minute, The Dutch had their great chance. Robben was put through with just Casillas to beat.
Though Casillas went the wrong way, Robben did not have the clinical ability to finish that matched his teammates' clinical ability to assault.
With just 22 minutes left, Villa had Spain's best chance. After a mazy run by Jesus Navas and a mistake by Heitinga, the ball fell to Villa's left foot.
Unfortunately, it isn't his right. His shot was blocked.
With 14 minutes left, Sergio Ramos had a free header from a corner. How could he not score? Carles Puyol would surely have scored.
Perhaps the Jo'bulani, specially created for this one game, had bounced awkwardly off his headband.
Then the Spanish finally lost their temper. After yet another crude, pathetic, cowardly assault by Van Bommel, Iniesta offered retaliation.
The referee at least had the tiny grace not to punish Iniesta. He had no grace, however, when, yet again, he allowed Van Bommel to stay on the pitch for yet another heinous act of intimidation.
The Dutch were playing like a team of drunken miners whose pit has been closed for good.
With seven minutes left, Robben was put through, lost control and was so convinced that he had been fouled that he forgot that he was supposed to score.
In the context of this game, Puyol's loose arm around Robben constituted nothing more than a friendly embrace.
Robben's reaction, a greater sprint than he had offered all game, this time towards the referee, was full of f-words and received merely the y-card.
All too often, though, Spain tried to walk the ball intricately through the center of the Dutch defense and all too often, there were too many bodies waiting for just such a move.
As the game went into extra time, it seemed that Spain's inability to score, which had plagued them throughout this World Cup, would sentence them to defeat.
In extra time, Iniesta put through Fabregas. The Arsenal midfielder should have scored. He could have passed the ball square. Instead he shot lamely at Stekelenburg. It was, again, his left foot. Again, the wrong one.
Still Spain tried to attack.
While Holland seemed to be ready to settle for the cruelty of penalties. After all, they had relied on cruelty for the whole game.
In the first half of extra time, the wondrous Iniesta was through on goal.
Yet again, the chance fell to his weaker left foot and he offered uncharacteristic panic rather than some kind of finality.
Then Jesus Navas shot, with his right, but found it deflected.
It was as if at least one Dutchman, Stekelenburg, knew this was one cruel joke. As Navas' shot bounced to safety, the Dutch keeper laughed.
It took 108 minutes for Webb to finally pull out his red card.
Iniesta was clear on goal. Naturally, given his uncertainty in front of goal, he wasn't a certainty to score. But Heitinga's cynical pull back meant he couldn't take part in any penalty shootout. Or, indeed, in any more disgraceful fouling.
The referee again failed in his responsibility, with just seven minutes left, to red card Robben who, already on a yellow, blatantly kicked the ball away long after the whistle had blown.
Then came Iniesta.
Put through on the right, he had enjoyed better chances in the game. But this was his right foot.
The right foot scored the right goal.
Right had defeated might.
The Dutch continued to argue with the referee, whining in asinine desperation, while the Spanish fell down in relief and joy at the burden that was finally lifted from their very selves.
So many people around the world look to the World Cup for inspiration.
These things don't come around very often. We need them to provide memories. Or, failing that, at least a little hope.
A little man, with a large right foot, gave us that little hope. A little hope that sheer talent and a distaste for nastiness can prevail.
To Andres Iniesta, we should all be very grateful.
Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing, and an avid sports fan. He is also the author of the popular CNET blog Technically Incorrect.