Two goals apiece for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, three of them penalties, and with England facing the Group F runners-up in next week’s last 16, a night of confusion for Gareth Southgate who, as the evening progressed, faced the prospect at various time of playing any one of four opponents.
The quality of the football may have disappointed, compared to what these two giants of the European game are capable of producing, but this rollercoaster game was never short of drama, intrigue, and unpredictable momentum swings.
It was also a night on which Ronaldo, as if he needed to, continued to write his legend large on the world stage, his two goals taking him to 109 for Portugal, joint on the all-time international goal-scoring list with Iran’s Ali Daei.
Benzema, too, made his mark on this tournament, after nearly six years in the international wilderness, and even thought he had won the game in the 47th minute when he put France ahead 2-1.
Having equalised from the spot late in the first half, Benzema was on the end of the latest in a series of superb passes from Paul Pogba and produced a clinical angled finish - his goal being ruled out for offside and then confirmed after a VAR review.
But just 12 minutes later, Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded a third penalty of the evening when Ronaldo’s cross was handled by French defender Jules Kounde, winning just his second cap.
Ronaldo’s penalty was similar, and just as unstoppable as the one he scored in the first half, with his effort equalling Daei’s remarkable record and also leaving him on course for the Golden Boot award in these Euros with his fifth goal of the tournament.
The Juventus star had never scored against France, in six previous attempts, but few would have bet against the 36-year-old ending his career with that rare example of failure still blotting his record.
Sure enough, he put that straight on the half-hour although in highly controversial circumstances after a fairly lacklustre opening period of the game ended with the night’s first penalty.
It came from a Joao Moutinho free-kick, that was met by the head of Danilo, fractionally ahead of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris; the Spurs man succeeding only in punching the Portuguese midfielder in the jaw as he aimed to clear the ball.
It was a brave call by Spanish referee Lahoz, but one which looked sound on television replays, despite the furious French protests. Up stepped Ronaldo who, on his 178th appearance for his country, thumped in an unstoppable penalty low to the left-hand side of the French goal.
With that, Ronaldo also recorded his 20th goal in either World Cup or European Championship Finals, making him the first European ever to reach that mark, as the extraordinary striker continued to make an indelible mark on the sport.
It also, given the concurrent events in Germany’s meeting with Hungary, took Portugal top of the group, momentarily at least, and left England with the prospect of facing group runners-up France in the last-16 tie at Wembley.
That Hungarian goal had been greeted by the loudest cheer of the evening by the crowd in the Puskas Arena in Budapest but, in truth, the game they were actually watching was a slow burner.
Didier Deschamps’ side was already through to the last 16, and played like it, although having needed an own goal to beat Germany and coming from behind to gain a point against Hungary, this was a game in which the French manager would have wanted his world champions to discover some of their magic.
It took a large slice of luck, therefore, for the French to claim an equaliser on the stroke of half-time when Lahoz ruled that Nelson Semedo had unfairly blocked Kylian Mbappe as, not for the first time on the evening, the superstar threatened to latch onto a superb through ball from Pogba.
It looked a harsh decision, but it was one that VAR upheld, and the recalled Benzema, who had missed his last three penalties for his country, delivered an emphatic conversion down the middle of the goal.
Suitably inspired by the late first-half equaliser, France and Benzema struck two minutes into the second half and the game finally burst into life. Almost immediately, Ronaldo rose athletically to meet Raphael Guerrero’s cross, which was fractionally too high, and could only head off target.
France responded in kind with the excellent Pogba’s long shot being touched onto the post by Rui Patricio’s magnificent save, with the Wolves keeper also doing well to keep out Antoine Griezmann’s follow-up.
Bruno Fernandes, surprisingly left out of the starting line-up for Portugal, made his mark off the bench and there was a late long-range chance which Griezmann blasted well over as the rivals were finally able to call a truce and coast into the knock-outs.
Patricio 7; Semedo 8 (Dalot 78, 6), Pepe 7, Dias 6, Guerreiro 6; Danilo 6 (Palhinha 45, 6); B Silva 8 (Fernandes 72, 7), Moutinho 6 (Neves 72, 6), Sanches 9 (Oliveira 87), Jota 6; Ronaldo 8. Fonte, A Silva, Lopes, Carvalho, F Silva, Dalot, Da Silva, Sequeira.
Lloris 6; Kounde 6, Varane 6, Kimpembe 6, Hernandez 6 (Digne 45; Rabiot 51, 7); Pogba 9, Kante 7; Tolisso 5 (Coman 66, 7), Griezmann 6 (Sissoko 86), Mbappe 7; Benzema 8. Pavard, Lenglet, Lemar, Giroud, Zouma, Mandanda, Ben Yedder, Maignan.
A Lahoz (Spain) 5.