At 2-0, Belgium looked dead and buried, but Roberto Martinez had other ideas as he changed things around in the second half and urged his charges to crowd the Japanese box.
"In the World Cup you want to be flawless but it's about getting through, it's about winning", Martinez said. "How we use him is very important in a tournament like this, when we have very little time to recover between games".
Belgium became the first team since 1970, who in the match of the playoffs to recoup from the account 0:2.
"We had control of the match, but to me it is just shameful that so much time could be lost over one player", the Mexico coach said, according to ESPN.
However, in keeping with a series of performances blighted by dramatic playacting in the group stage, Neymar again won himself few friends in Samara by rolling around when gently stepped on by Miguel Layun.
Spain join 2014 winners Germany, Argentina and European champions Portugal in exiting the competition, leaving just four former World Cup winners in the tournament.
As they aim to lift the World Cup for a record sixth time in Moscow on July 15, their next opponents are Belgium in Kazan on Friday, in what will be something of a clash of styles - the best defence up against the best attack.
Their round-of-16 tie against Mexico was another object lesson in defending from the central pairing of Thiago Silva and Miranda, assisted by full backs Fagner and Filipe Luis and given an extra layer of protection by Casemiro in midfield.
"He's very agile. He's very fast", Brazil coach Tite said.
But they couldn't find a way to stop Neymar.
VAR decided against any punishment for Layun, but Neymar also escaped without seeing a yellow card for simulation that would have seen him banned for the quarter-finals.
"He's played all four games and hasn't done too badly out of it". Fresh among tiring legs, Firmino was able to evade the defense to get in the right place to score the second goal.