"We should have finished the job before penalties, but maybe it's written in the stars that we have to go through the extra drama", said inspirational playmaker Luka Modric.
Croatia's Domagoj Vida broke the deadlock in extra-time, getting his head to the ball from a corner to score in the 101st minute but Fernandes headed home from a free-kick just five minutes before the end in Sochi.
Croatia, who reached their first semi-final since 1998, dominated possession over the 120 minutes but were let down by poor final passes and were vulnerable to Russia's aerial game. Mario Figueira Fernandes put in that goal by heading in a free kick from Alan Dzagoev.
With the sheer amount of firepower Croatia has in their frontline, it could fall upon Russian captain and shootout hero Igor Akinfeev to send Sbornaya through to the semi-finals and continue their strong run.
When the last plane takes off with the eventual world champions next week, the Russians will start weaving stories about Stanislav Cherchesov and his band of merry men who rocked the World Cup at home, and shook football's hierarchy.
Croatia sneaked into the last four through the shootout route where Smolov missed and so did Mario Fernandes, the naturalised Brazilian who brought Russian Federation back into the match in the 114thminute of extra-time.
And in the extra session, it looked like Croatia was well on their way to the victory and avoiding penalty kicks.
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However, at the other end of the field will stand an equally hard opposition for the Russian offence to break down in Danijel Subašić, who himself saved three penalties in Croatia's shootout win over Denmark - a performance that puts him level with Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo in terms of penalties saved in a World Cup shootout.
They will have to attack Modric earlier than they managed to do against Spain's playmakers and will probably play a far more expansive game than last Sunday.
"We have two matches to play, we are very motivated, we will give our all". The victor of that game faces England or Croatia in the 2018 World Cup final.
In France '98, the hosts knocked Croatia out in the last four en-route to clinching the title, while four years ago Brazil edged them 2-1 in the tournament opener.
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said after the game, "The Russia team fought well".
"For Croatia being in the semis is a great success", said Dalic. Most certainly a candidate for the best goal of this World Cup.