Papiss Cisse, who had two efforts ruled out for offside, struck on 71 minutes to lift Toon hopes of overturning a 3-1 first-leg quarter-final deficit.

But Eduardo Salvio netted at the death to finally end Toon’s Euro dream.

Boss Pards said: “We so nearly pulled it off and we can be proud of ourselves even in defeat. I felt over the two legs Benfica had the rub of the green and we could have won that.

“But I’m just proud of the club, the way the two games were carried off against fantastic opposition.”

His side created several chances that would have put them into the semis, with sub Hatem Ben Arfa firing a great late chance over.

Pards said: “After we scored, I felt Benfica were afraid of us and we’d get the second. When Hatem cut inside their box, I thought that was it but he just got too much on it and it went over.

“We have been out of Europe for a while but we have put ourselves back on the stage in incredible fashion — and now we want more of this.”

Benfica boss Jorge Jesus said: “All credit to Newcastle. It was very intense but we deserve to be in the semis.”