Liverpool's Europa League dream was cruelly brought to an end as Diego Forlan's extra-time strike saw Atletico Madrid progress into the final on the away goals rule despite a 2-1 defeat at Anfield.
On a tense night in L4, Alberto Aquilani levelled up the tie with a well-taken 44th minute volley after great work by Yossi Benayoun.
It was to prove the only goal of the 90 minutes, however Benayoun put Liverpool ahead when the Israeli drilled home four minutes into extra-time from Lucas Leiva's pass.
But the home side's joy was short-lived as Forlan pounced with 102 minutes on the clock to tie the aggregate score at 2-2 and ensure it is Atletico who will contest the final against Fulham in Hamburg on May 12.
It was the Uruguayan's ninth-minute goal at the Vicente Calderon last week that handed Atletico a 1-0 advantage to bring to Anfield, but Liverpool have made a habit of overturning first-leg deficits in the tournament this season and indeed throughout history.
In fact, heading into the clash, the Reds had lost the first leg of a European tie 1-0 away from home nine times - but managed to progress on all but one occasion.
The attacking thrust of Rafael Benitez's contingent was boosted pre-match by the inclusion of Dirk Kuyt in the starting XI after he was passed fit to face Los Rojiblancos having recovered from a calf problem.
The boss opted to shuffle his pack in defence, with Javier Mascherano and Glen Johnson occupying the full-back positions - the latter in an unfamiliar left-back role - while Benayoun also started.
It meant two changes were made to the side that began at Burnley on Sunday as Benitez sent out an attacking line-up in an attempt to secure a trip to Hamburg.
Germany was, of course, the scene of Liverpool's triumph the last time we lifted the trophy on a topsy-turvy evening in Dortmund nine years ago.
The emotions of Kopites were pulled in every possible direction at the Westfalenstadion before Delfi Geli's own-goal deep in extra-time made sure the Reds would complete an historic cup treble in the most dramatic of fashion courtesy of a 5-4 win over plucky Alaves.
With the events of that night still fairly fresh in the memory banks, a wall of noise greeted the players as they entered the arena - the Kop delivering one of the most rousing renditions of You'll Never Walk Alone heard in a long time.
And Liverpool delivered an early statement of intent, attacking the world's most famous football stand, as Benayoun forced David de Gea to turn his drilled effort around the post inside the opening 10 seconds.
A flurry of corners followed, helping crank up the decibel levels a further notch - with home fans hoping the magpie that had decided to take residence in the Atletico penalty area would signal a night of sorrow for the La Liga outfit.
The ferocious start soon gave way to a more measured approach, and the visitors tested Pepe Reina for the first time on 19 minutes as Raul Garcia's raking effort was tipped behind by the Reds' stopper.
Back came the home side and a majestic exchange of passes between Steven Gerrard, Aquilani and Kuyt found Mascherano rampaging down the right. His teasing cross was turned inches over the bar by Kuyt on the slide.
Liverpool were forced to survive a major scare seconds later, however, as Jose Antonio Reyes's pass sent Sergio Aguero into space inside the box, but the Argentina ace was forced wide by Reina and his cross could not pick out Forlan in the middle.
The Reds thought they had opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark when Daniel Agger directed Steven Gerrard's free-kick into the back of the net with his forehead - but the Dane was adjudged to have been in an offside position when the set piece was taken.
The captain then saw a volley deflected wide via the legs of Benayoun as the hosts continued to press.
And the deadlock was broken a minute before the interval when Benayoun cleverly ghosted away from Reyes to deliver a low cross into the box from the right, which was hooked into the bottom corner by Aquilani to send Anfield wild and level the tie on aggregate heading into the break.
The opening exchanges of the second half remained frenetic and after Paulo Assuncao had clipped a shot way over the bar, Benayoun was presented with a half chance from Babel's deep cross, though the bounce of the ball proved too awkward for the Israeli to get under control and Antonio Lopez cleared.
De Gea blocked Kuyt's drive at his near post and Benayoun curled over as Liverpool increasingly began to counter-attack their Spanish opponents.
Still, Atletico couldn't trouble Reina as Garcia twice unsuccessfully tried from distance.
With 10 minutes of normal time remaining on the Anfield scoreboard, Johnson cut in from the left and curled a strike goalwards from the edge of the area, forcing De Gea to punch to safety.
At the other end, Forlan was inches away from bringing down Simao's driven pass that would have sent the Uruguay hit man bearing down on goal, making sure extra-time would be required to determine who would progress.
Fulham's 2-1 victory over Hamburg was announced to the crowd ahead of the start of extra-time - news that was greeted by warm and friendly applause from the Kop - and the incentive of an all-English European final would surely rev up the Reds once again.
And indeed it did, with Liverpool taking the lead in the tie in the 94th minute. A half-cleared Gerrard free-kick was worked back to Lucas Leiva, who expertly chipped a pass over the Atletico back four into the path of Benayoun inside the left channel of the box.
The weight on the pass meant the No.15 was able to drive a left-footed volley across De Gea with his first touch, which found the far bottom corner.
But Atletico's riposte first saw substitute Jose Manuel Juardo shave the outside of the post before Forlan fired home a crucial away goal.
Reyes got the better of Johnson on the left edge of Liverpool's box and the former Arsenal winger delivered a teasing centre, which left Forlan with the simplest of tasks in tapping in from close-range.
It left the Reds needing another to prevent Atletico progressing into the final on the away goals rule, but Simao had hearts in mouths when he went beyond substitute Philipp Degen before dinking narrowly over the bar.
Though they huffed and puffed, Benitez's troops were unable to breach De Gea's goal again, meaning their European dream harshly came to an end.
Liverpool's attentions will now turn to Sunday's Barclays Premier League clash with Chelsea and the challenge of keeping their top four hopes alive.