India bowed out of the World Twenty20 after failing to keep South Africa to a total of under 121 in their final Super Eights Clash in Colombo.
With Pakistan beating Australia by 32 runs earlier on Tuesday, India needed to win by a huge margin in Colombo to make the semi-finals.
But Faf du Plessis (65 off 38 balls) ensured an early trip back home for MS Dhoni's team despite South Africa, already out of the competition, going down by one run.
India finished on four points, the same as Australia and Pakistan, who qualified for the semis, and paid the price for the nine-wicket defeat to the Australians and find themselves out of the competition despite winning four of their five games.
Put into bat, India made 6-152 with runs from Suresh Raina (45 off 34), Rohit Sharma (25 off 27) and MS Dhoni (23 off 13) with Robin Peterson (2-25) and Morne Morkel (2-28) the chief wicket-takers.
India, needing to keep South Africa to 121 or less to go past Pakistan's net run rate, started well with Zaheer Khan (3-22) dismissing Hashim Amla (0) off the second ball and Irfan Pathan (1-26) accounting for Jacques Kallis (6 off 8) in the fourth over.
But du Plessis, brought into the side in place of Richard Levi, counter-attacked brilliantly, hitting two sixes and six boundaries. He first put on 30 with AB de Villiers (13 off 13) in 2.4 overs and 49 with Jean Paul Duminy (16 off 23) in 6.3 overs as South Africa threatened to claim an improbable win.
Du Plessis and Duminy fell in the space of 12 runs to give India a glimmer of hope but Farhaan Behardien (13 off 12) and Peterson (10 off 10) ensured they took India out of the competition with them.
The Proteas kept themselves in hunt for their first win of the Super Eights and Albie Morkel (10 off 6) hit a six when 14 were needed off six balls before dragging the next ball onto his stumps.
Albie's brother and last man Morne duplicated the sequence as he sent the fourth L Balaji (3-37) delivery over the midwicket fence but was cleaned up off the next ball when two were needed off two.
Earlier, India needed to put up a huge total after being asked to bat but lost Gautam Gambhir (8 off 12) and Virat Kohli (2 off 6) early.
Virender Sehwag (17 off 14) showed glimpses of his old self before falling to Peterson, leaving the middle order to do all the work.
Yuvraj Singh (21 off 15) briefly counter-attacked before being cleaned up by Morkel while Sharma looked out of sorts and it was left to Raina and Dhoni to take the team past 150.
First Posted 03 October, 2012 8:57AM AEDT