Seahawks book Super Bowl spot
The Seattle Seahawks clinched a nail-biting 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers to set up a Super Bowl showdown with the Denver Broncos.
Seattle trailed 10-3 at half-time in the NFC Conference Championship Game but a thunderous touchdown run from Marshawn Lynch sparked a wild comeback at CenturyLink Field.
Lynch rumbled 40 yards into the end zone to tie things up in the third quarter before Russell Wilson found Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to give the Seahawks the lead.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for 130 yards but touchdowns from Anthony Dixon and Anquan Boldin were not enough to stop bitter rivals Seattle prevailing.
The 49ers were still in contention with the clock winding down in the final quarter before a brilliant play by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman led to Kaepernick being intercepted in the end zone, icing the game.
Seattle could barely have made a worse start to the contest as quarterback Wilson lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage, but the fearsome home defence held the 49ers to a field goal.
The 'Legion of Boom' was not the only thoroughbred stop unit on show as the San Francisco defence caused all sorts of problems for Wilson during the rest of the first half.
Aldon Smith and Justin Smith seemed to take up permanent residence in the opposing backfield, while middle linebacker Navarro Bowman was also too much for the Seahawks' offensive line to handle.
In the second quarter, Kaepernick broke free for a spectacular 58-yard run, with Anthony Dixon diving into the end zone on fourth down three plays later to make it 10-0.
Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka reduced the gap with a field goal before half time and after the break Lynch, who finished with 109 rushing yards, broke free downfield to tie things up.
The 49ers hit back straight away with a six-play, 83-yard drive which culminated in Kaepernick finding Boldin with a dart in the back of the end zone. Another Hauschka field goal then reduced the gap to four points.
Controversy followed as San Francisco were denied a first down on a non-call of roughing the kicker and Seattle capitalised when Wilson heaved a pass towards the end zone on 4th and 7 and Kearse came down with the touchdown grab.
The 49ers would feel hard done by again in the fourth when Bowman, who suffered a horrible-looking knee injury in the process of making the play, was denied a clear fumble recovery on his own one-yard line. But Lynch subsequently fumbled the ball away and no damage was done on the scoreboard.
A third Hauschka field goal made it 23-17 with 3:37 left to play but Kaepernick then led a dramatic drive down the field, only to see it ended by an interception in the end zone has Sherman athletically batted the ball away from Michael Crabtree before Malcolm Smith plucked it out of the air for the game-clinching pick.