Any chance of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints marching out of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with the Lombardi Trophy disappeared on one of the worst no-calls in NFL playoff history.
The LA Rams will play in the big dance next fortnight after defeating the Saints 26-23 in overtime in the NFC Championship game.
At 20-20 late in the fourth quarter a pass from Saints quarterback Brees to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis appeared to set up the go-ahead touchdown, but the referees decided this was in no way pass interference despite Nickell Robey-Coleman clattering into Lewis.
Coleman admitted post match it was pass interference as did the NFL when confronted by Saints coach Sean Payton.
"For a call like that not to be made, man, it's just hard to swallow. And then to get a phone call..." Payton said, trailing off. He added: "We spoke initially, then I called to follow up. And the first thing (head of officials Alberto Riveron) said when I got on the phone -- 'We messed it up.'
"Listen, it's a hard job for those guys 'cause it's happening fast. But I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call that -- here it is, the NFC Championship game. So it's a tough one to swallow."
The decision sent Twitter into meltdown as the Saints were robbed of their shot at a first Super Bowl since 2009.
Even NBA star Lebron James weighed in on the issue.
Greg Zuerlain then sent the Rams home in overtime when he kicked a 57-yard field goal in overtime to send the Rams to the Super Bowl.
The stunning finish came after New Orleans got the ball first in the extra period. Under pressure, Brees fluttered up a pass that was picked off by John Johnson III, who was able to hang on to the interception while falling onto his back.
The Rams weren't able to do much offensively, but it didn't matter. Zuerlein, who had already delivered a tying 48-yard kick with 15 seconds left in regulation, booted through the winning field goal with plenty of room to spare.
"It's unbelievable, man. I can't put it into words," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "The defence played the way they did to force it to overtime. The defence gets a pick and Greg makes a 57-yarder to win it. That was good from about 70. Unbelievable."
The Superdome, which had been in uproar all afternoon, suddenly turned eerily silent. It was the first home playoff loss for the Saints with Brees and coach Sean Payton, who and been 6-0 in those games since their pairing began in 2006.
The Rams (15-3) and their 32-year-old coach, Sean McVay, capped a remarkable rise since moving back to Los Angeles three years ago. The team will be appearing in its first Super Bowl since the 2001 season, when the "Greatest Show on Turf" was still in St. Louis.
It was another bitter end to the season for the Saints, who lost the previous season in the divisional round on the "Minnesota Miracle" – the Vikings' long touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
This time, New Orleans (14-4) squandered an early 13-0 lead and couldn't overcome the blown call in the closing minutes of regulation with some sugeesting the call should be reason to overhaul the current officiating system.