An astonishing match in Italy finished in favour of the Nerazzurri, but it was Didier Deschamps' guests who were celebrating at full time after an action-packed conclusionA stoppage-time goal from Brandao put Olympique de Marseille into the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of Inter, with the French side progressing on away goals after the hosts struck an even later penalty to run out 2-1 winners on the night.
Diego Milito had given the Nerazzurri the lead, but a long, hopeful ball from Steve Mandanda in the 91st minute was picked up by the Brazilian forward, who shot home with seconds remaining to send Claudio Ranieri’s side out.
The Marseille goalkeeper would be sent off moments later, but Giampaolo Pazzini’s late penalty was ultimately fruitless, as the 2-2 aggregate scoreline proved enough for Didier Deschamps' jubilant side.
Although it was the visitors who offered the first effort on goal, Mathieu Valbuena spinning before shooting into the arms of Julio Cesar, it would be the hosts who passed up two golden opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.
Wesley Sneijder was the first culprit, inexplicably allowing his shot to be blocked by the prone Mandanda after an incisive incursion down the right from Javier Zanetti.
The magnitude of waste was matched moments later by Milito, who elected to chest a cross goalwards from four yards when a header would surely have brought the opener. Mandanda reacted admirably to make the block, but the French goalkeeper shouldn’t have stood a chance.
Marseille’s best opportunity of the first half came down the right flank, where they enjoyed much joy. A cross from Cesar Azpilicueta picked out the fit-again Loic Remy, who aimed his header just past the post.
The remainder of the opening period was a tactical duel, with Marseille largely looking comfortable against the Italian hosts, who tested Mandanda again in the last minute of the half with a Sneijder free-kick that was well grasped.
No alteration was forthcoming in the pattern of the match after the break, prompting Ranieri to make a double change before the hour mark, with the ineffective duo of Sneijder and Diego Forlan withdrawn.
Chances for Inter were infrequent as Marseille played smartly. Andrea Poli blasted a half chance well over the top and the otherwise impressive Dejan Stankovic was much too high with a free-kick.
Julio Cesar was not being overworked at the other end of the field, despite some neat play from the French side, but the goalkeeper did well to get down to a dangerous header from Alou Diarra following a Valbuena set piece.
With 15 minutes remaining, Inter made the breakthrough just as their build-up was at its most stagnant. A corner wasn’t cleared properly, and after some pinball in the box, Milito scrambled home from close range.
Inter made the more pressing case to get the game’s second goal, with Esteban Cambiasso squandering a great chance, but it was some miserable defending from the hosts that allowed Brandao to score.
The forward drifted in unnoticed to prod the ball past Julio Cesar and into the net, destroying Inter's chances of progression, and sending the visiting bench into raptures.
Pazzini’s 96th minute penalty was ultimately joyless, beating Gennaro Bracigliano who had come on for the dismissed Steve Mandanda, but there was no time even to kick off again.
Marseille progress on away goals, eliminating Inter, who are now expected to jettison coach Ranieri after another disappointing result under his charge.