The New York Giants took advantage of a sloppy performance by the Green Bay Packers to spring a major upset in the final game of the divisional playoffs with a 37-20 victory.
As seen in the other three games, an inability to avoid turnovers cost the Packers dear, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing an interception and losing one of three Green Bay fumbles on an error-strewn night.
The Giants' offence was praised during the run-up to the game, but their defence was equally hot on a wintry evening at Lambeau Field where the partisan home fans were largely silenced from the start.
ROAD TO SUPER BOWL XLVI
- Sunday, 22 January (kick-off 2000 GMT) AFC Championship: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
- Sunday, 22 January (kick-off 2330 GMT) NFC Championship: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
After trading field goals, Giants' quarterback Eli Manning found Hakeem Nicks who raced into the endzone for a 66-yard touchdown.
Still, few gave the Giants much chance though. While they only sneaked into the playoffs at the last minute, the Packers cruised through the regular season seemingly with plenty to spare.
Courtesy of having one of the two best records in the NFC, the defending Super Bowl champions even had an extra week off to rest their aching limbs and prepare themselves tactically for the Giants.
But if anything the Packers seemed to have lost momentum and looked ring-rusty as the Giants soon announced their presence.
Sloppy defending during the final play of the first half resulted in Eli Manning's speculative Hail Mary pass being caught for a touchdown by Hakeem Nicks as the Giants went into the break with a 20-10 lead.
The Packers gave themselves hope with a field goal in the third quarter, but the Giants were simply too strong in the fourth with Mario Manningham (four-yard touchdown reception) and Brandon Jacobs (14-yard touchdown run) running up the score either side of a 16-yard touchdown catch by Donald Driver.
The Giants will now travel to San Francisco for the NFC Championship game on 22 January, knowing that a Super Bowl appearance against either New England or Baltimore is now tantalisingly within their grasp. The
49ers on Saturday edged New Orleans
in one of the finest postseason games in NFL history.
Ed Reed makes the decisive interception for Baltimore
Earlier, Baltimore secured an AFC Championship showdown against New England after their mean defence helped them to a 20-13 victory over Houston.
The Ravens fully capitalised on a pair of Texans turnovers to race into an early 17-3 lead, courtesy of Joe Flacco's touchdown passes to Kris Williams (one yard) and Anquan Boldin (10 yards).
The visiting Texans - their offence fighting to make themselves heard against a deafening Ravens crowd - fought back in the second quarter through a one-yard touchdown run from star running back Arian Foster.
Defences dominated the third quarter and were again on top at the start of the fourth until Billy Cundiff's 44-yard field goal opened Baltimore's lead to seven points.
There was enough time for the Texans to get a tying touchdown though, but their rookie quarterback TJ Yates's deep pass was snaffled by future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed.
It was Yates's third interception of the game, and Houston's fourth turnover, and ultimately those errors proved decisive.
The Ravens will now travel to New England,
who thrashed Denver 45-10
in Saturday's other AFC divisional playoff game, with a place in the Super Bowl up for grabs.
Live coverage of the NFL Championship games can be heard on 5 live Sports Extra from 2000 GMT on Sunday, 22 January (UK only). Highlights will be shown on BBC Two on Monday, 23 January.