The numbers all stacked up against South Africa: they had won only once out of the last nine times - since the last World Cup - that they had been asked to chase 270 or more, and four times out of 14 in chases of 240 or more.
After a prolonged period of foreplay that involved 42 games, cricket’s pinnacle event has reached the business end, as it were.
This is the point of no return, there are no more second chances, no further opportunity to right a wrong. This is when you either shape up, or ship out.
Sri Lanka has been here many times in the past. More often than not, it has surmounted this hurdle, an obstacle that can make nervy boys out of solid men.
South Africa has been here too, many times in the past.
Normally, given its all-round depth, South Africa should have the edge. It has lost just once in four World Cup clashes to Sri Lanka, that in 1992.
They have one of the best batsmen and the best bowlers in world cricket. But the knockouts have troubled South Africa.