Chicago All Mark Prior could do was sit in the dugout and stare. A glorious night suddenly ruined.
Same disappointment for another Cub, Sammy Sosa. He had three hits, scored a run and drove in another as Chicago built what seemed to be a safe 3-0 lead by the eighth inning.
Just five outs from Chicago's first trip to the World Series in 58 years.
It all fell apart so fast.
The Florida Marlins rallied for eight quick runs and an 8-3 victory in Game 6 of the NL championship series Tuesday night.
The decisive seventh game is tonight, and the Cubs will have to try to forget about the chance they blew.
"I can go home tonight and say I gave it everything I possibly had," Prior said. "I didn't execute in the eighth inning like I was the rest of the game. I left a couple of balls up, and they found some holes. Obviously, we just didn't get the job done at the end when we needed to."
With chants of "Let's Go Prior!" rolling across an electric Wrigley Field, the right-hander had allowed only three hits and retired eight straight batters.
After yielding a one-out double to Juan Pierre in the eighth, Prior's night and maybe the fortunes of the Cubs changed for good.
As Moises Alou moved toward the left-field stands ready to catch Luis Castillo's foul fly for what could have been the second out, a fan reached up and deflected the ball.
No catch and no out -- umpire Mike Everitt ruled no interference.
Alou was furious, and the Cubs came unglued.
"I'm almost 100-percent sure that I had a clean shot to catch the ball. But at the same time, I kind of feel bad for the guy now because every fan in every ballpark, their first reaction is they want a souvenir," Alou said.
"When something like that happens you can't rewind it or get it back. It's a tough situation to deal with," Sosa said.
When Prior threw a wild pitch as Castillo walked, Pierre went to third.
After an RBI single by Ivan Rodriguez, normally sure-handed shortstop Alex Gonzalez fumbled Miguel Cabrera's grounder.
"We thought we had a ground-ball double play because Gonzo, he's only made 10 errors all year," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
"That's the stunning part, because he doesn't miss anything. And then after that, we couldn't stop the bleeding. They just started hitting the ball all over everywhere."
Derrek Lee tied the game with a two-run double, finishing Prior, as the Marlins stunned the Cubs and silenced a crowd of 39,577.
Now it's on to Game 7 tonight, when Kerry Wood will try to get the Cubs to the World Series.
Prior entered the game 12-1 in his previous 13 starts, including two wins in the postseason.
The poised 23-year-old, who won 18 games in his first full major-league season, beat the Marlins in Game 2.
And Cubs fans were sure they had the right guy to take them to the World Series against Boston or New York.