In what must be the most physical of all pools in Rugby World Cup history, Tonga found themselves in with a shot of a place in the quarter-finals for the first time following wins against Pacific rivals Samoa and the USA at the start of the 2007 tournament.
Tonga went into their next match against South Africa in Lens knowing that the prized scalp of the Springboks, or a win against England in their final game, would almost certainly be enough to see them make the last eight.
Having beaten England 36-0 in Paris, South Africa had all but confirmed their place in the knockout stages themselves – barring any slip-ups against Tonga and the Eagles – and decided to rest some of their frontline players against the ‘Ikale Tahi as a result.
It very nearly back-fired on them, though, as Tonga almost pulled off the unthinkable at the Stade Felix-Bollaert.
A converted try just after half-time from prop Kisi Pulu helped Tonga into a 10-7 lead against a much-changed Springboks line-up showing 11 changes from the one that ruthlessly dismantled England.
Springbok coach Jake White called in the cavalry, bringing on the likes of Bryan Habana, Francois Steyn, Victor Matfield and John Smit in a bid to turn the tide, and the 1995 champions surged 27-10 clear with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar scoring his second try of the match.
No-one expected Tonga to come back from that, but they very nearly did, scoring two quickfire tries through Sukanaivalu Hufanga and Viliami Vaki – a length-of-the-field effort involving several hack-ons downfield.
Sigh of relief
With Percy Montgomery, on the occasion of his record 90th cap and Tonga fly-half Pierre Hola trading penalties, all of a sudden, South Africa found themselves defending a five-point lead at 30-25 with a few minutes remaining.
Refusing to accept defeat, fly-half Pierre Hola chip-kicked behind the Springboks defence and would have been presented with a clear run to the line had he been able to regather possession.
However, the ball bounced unkindly and the eventual world champions breathed a collective sigh of relief as it evaded his grasp and instead rolled into touch.
"I am relieved," said White. "All credit to the Tongan team, I thought they were outstanding, especially when they came back at us after we got such a nice lead in the middle of the second half."