Wales came from behind to beat 14-man France 20-19 in a thrilling Rugby World Cup quarterfinal on Sunday.

After trailing throughout the contest, Warren Gatland's side took the lead for the first time in the 75th minute at Oita Stadium when Dan Biggar converted a Ross Moriarty try.

Having dominated the first 31 minutes, Jacques Brunel's men were forced to play the rest of the game a man down after Sebastien Vahaamahina inexplicably became the first French player to be sent off at a World Cup for elbowing Aaron Wainwright in the face while the two were bound together in a maul.

The outcome was a mirror image of the only previous World Cup meeting between the sides, when France prevailed 9-8 in the semifinals of the 2011 tournament after Wales forward Sam Warburton was sent off.

(Dan Biggar of Wales kicks a conversion.)

Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones acknowledged that the red card was the key turning point in the match, but praised his side for capitalizing with persistent, disciplined rugby.

"The character we showed to come through...Obviously, there was an advantage in the second half after the card, but we kept plugging away and came away on the right side of the scoreboard," the veteran second-rower said.

The statistical breakdown following Vahaamahina's dismissal was telling. Wales gained 166 meters to France's 104, led the carry count 42 to 31 and tallied 51 passes to 20.

Wales had arrived in Oita as strong favorites, but it was the French who landed the first punch when Vahaamahina dived across in the fifth minute.

(Sebastien Vahaamahina of France opens the scoring.)

They added a second just three minutes later, carving their way through the Welsh midfield, with scrumhalf Antoine Dupont picking out flanker Charles Ollivon to charge across beneath the posts.

Romain Ntamack slotted the conversion to put Wales -- who had never recovered from a double-digit deficit at a World Cup -- in a 12-0 hole.

Gatland's men came out swinging at the restart and were quickly on the board when man-of-the-match Wainwright grabbed a spilled ball and ran half the length of the field to score his first try for his team.

Key man Biggar slotted a penalty to narrow the gap to 12-10, a fortunate score line for the Welsh considering the early French dominance.

But the momentum swung back to the men in blue when replacement Moriarty went to the sin bin for a high shot on French inside center Gael Fickou.

(Sebastien Vahaamahina (5) of France receives a red card.)

The French quickly exploited the man advantage, stretching the Welsh defense inside the 22 before winger Damian Penaud provided the offload for Virimi Vakatawa to burst through the gap for their third try.

They had the chance to put the game out of reach with further forays into attacking territory, but the undermanned Welsh defense held firm to go into the interval down 19-10.

A hobbled Ntamack was replaced at halftime after hitting the post from a conversion and a penalty, with the two misses ultimately coming back to haunt his team.

As France were poised to land the knockout blow with a maul in close proximity to the line, Vahaamahina rashly handed the Welsh a crucial lifeline by losing his composure and swinging at Wainwright.

Referee Jaco Peyper had no hesitation in showing the red card and Wales were soon back in the contest when Biggar landed a penalty to cut the lead to 19-13.

(Gareth Davies (red, facing camera) of Wales passes the ball.)

France had the chance to extend the lead back to two scores with a drop-goal, but Camille Lopez, who replaced Ntamack, opted to go for the try. The chance went begging, however, as Penaud fumbled an awkward offload from Vakatawa with the line in sight.

Having played nearly the entire half with 14 men, the deficit eventually took its toll on France, who conceded a turnover from a five-meter scrum. Tomos Williams forced the ball out, and Moriarty was in the right place at the right time to touch down on the right side.

Brunel, who is stepping down as France coach following the tournament, said he believed Wales knocked the ball forward on Moriarty's crucial try.

"There is a player who pulled on the ball and it went forward and so that's the decision I would like to see again because I am a little disappointed," Brunel said.

Despite the disappointment, the 65-year-old coach said the future looked promising for French rugby's talented crop of young players.

"For the future generations, we are one of the youngest teams in the competition, (with) all the potential. They will keep on learning and it will make them mature. There is a brighter future for this team," he said.