James Ward's defeat by Andreas Seppi was enough to extinguish Great Britain's hopes of progressing into the semi-finals of the Davis Cup.
The scores were tied at 2-2 in Naples going into the final rubber and Italy's Seppi won 6-4 6-3 6-4 to seal the hosts a first spot in the final four since 1998.
Britain have waited even longer, 33-years, and they will rue losing a 2-1 lead that carried into the final day.
Before Ward's decisive loss, Britain no.1 Andy Murray had the chance to attain an unassailable advantage for GB but he went down on the clay courts in straight sets to a masterful Fabio Fognini.
It was always going to be tough for world no. 161 Ward to defeat his opponent ranked 34th, despite his previous good form in the cup.
As it was Seppi, after a shaky start, always looked capable of finishing the Italian job.
The first set was a nervy affair for both men, there was a grand total of seven breaks of serve as neither were able to make the most of respective opportunities.
In the end it was a case of who could make the most breaks and it was Seppi who managed it. Ward showed fight at 4-2 and 5-3 down but following a short rain-interruption he lost his serve once more to go a set down.
The second set was far more settled for both. The points carried with serve until the hosts' no.2 got the crucial breakthrough on his 27-year-old opponent to make it 4-2.
Naples has proved to be a menacing venue for the Brits over the last couple of days and the capacity crowd were able to roar Seppi, who had lost to Murray on day one, towards a two-set lead from that point.
Ward appeared to lose confidence against the dominant 30-year-old and he slipped from 1-1 to 4-1 down in the final set with two breaks of serve.
However, most of the Brit's best days as a pro have come in the Davis Cup and he tried to stave off the inevitable with a break-back to claw things back to 4-3.
He furthered proved that he is made of sterner stuff when he saved a match-point as he served to save the match.
Another turn-around was needed, though, and Seppi kept his service game in beautiful fashion to seal Italy's weekend win and comeback.
Italy will go through to face either Switzerland or Kazakhstan who are facing each other in Geneva.
Meanwhile Czech Republic's big win over Japan in Tokyo secures them a semi-final spot against either Germany or France.
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