Asamoah Gyan kept Africa's hopes alive in the first World Cup on the continent when he drove in an extra time winner in Rustenburg to send Ghana into the quarterfinals.
Gyan showed power and strength to settle a tight encounter, holding off both Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit after controlling a long pass from Andre Ayew before smashing his shot beyond Tim Howard.
"I'm the happiest man in the world," Gyan said. "I'm pleased that Africa's happy that we qualified for the quarterfinal. We have made Africa proud not Ghana alone but the whole of Africa."
Bob Bradley, the US coach, identified the striker as the key difference on the night. "Gyan caused us trouble and got the winner," he said. "Physically, he's a real handful and at the end of the day that's probably the area that too care of things. At this moment it's a stinging, tough defeat... we knew Ghana was a good team yet tonight we didn't get the job done."
Landon Donovan, the golden boy of US football, had resurrected American hopes with a penalty that forced extra time after Ghana had gone ahead with Kevin-Prince Boateng's low shot.
Picking the ball up just inside the USA half, Boateng sped through the into the inside left channel, worked space for a shot on the run and drove the ball low past Howard's right hand from the edge of the penalty area.
Boateng's breakthrough was typical of an end-to-end start to the match, both sides taking every chance to burst forward. Samuel Inkoom, back in on the right for Ghana, and Clint Dempsey, playing on the left, had already tried their luck before the first goal.
Robbie Findley was using his pace to create danger but lacked end-product, never more so than in the 35th minute when Mike Bradley released him in a promising position but Richard Kingson saved with an outstretched leg.
It was no surprise that Findley gave way at half-time to Benny Feilhaber, who almost conjured an equaliser soon after the restart, but saw Kingson parry.
The Americans looked more dangerous with Dempsey trying his luck wide on the right but, as in the first half, Ghana kept threatening on the break, Boateng driving forward and creating shooting chances.
Gradually the USA forced Ghana deeper and deeper and were rewarded when Jonathan Mensah pulled down Dempsey as he surged into the penalty area. Donovan stepped up to send Kingson the wrong way from the spot.
Few chances were being created at either end until Gyan headed wide from a cross by Inkoom and the USA responded with a shot from Bradley that Kingson held.
Ghana lost some of their drive when Boateng went off injured, to be replaced by Stephen Appiah, and in the 81st minute Jozy Altidore held off John Mensah but could only poke his shot wide of the far post.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Man of the match: Ayew
Match rating: 6/10