A goal in 72 minutes from Igor Denisov broke Rangers hearts and then Konstantin Zyrianov rubbed salt into the wounds with a second in the fourth minute of injury time.
In truth Zenit were the better and more dangerous side. Rangers only really created a few half chances and it was not to be their night.
It was heart-breaking for the fans who filled the stadium and the thousands who watched on the big screens in the city.
Everyone was here. They flew in from Melbourne, Vancouver, Las Vegasand beyond. Everyone just had to be here.
The city of Manchester had never seen anything like it as thousands filled the streets all day and all night.
The came in cars, buses, trains and planes because they had to be here.
Sadly the hopes of so many were dashed and Zenit claimed the prize.
Rangers were almost in trouble in four minutes when Hemdani lost possession and Arshavin was sent through in the left channel but he pulled his shot wide.
Then a minute later captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk tried a long range shot but it didn’t trouble Neil Alexander.
Rangers, though produced a decent move in seven minutes when Ferguson and Thomson combined smartly with the latter feeding Darcheville.
Ferguson continued his run and Jean-Claude tried to find him but Krizanac made a great clearance.
The Russians had most of the play in the early moments and they threatened again in 11 minutes when Thomson gave away a free kick, bringing down Roman Shirokov.
Radek Sirl lined up the dead ball and hit a decent left foot shot but Alexander was right behind it to make the save.
Then in 23 minutes dangerman Andrei Arshavin found space for a shot and really tested Alexander who blocked the effort and then collected.
Rangers seemed to be struggling to offer much of threat with Darcheville well marshalled by Krizanac and Shirokov.
But there were given some hope in 37 minutes when Kirk Broadfoot tried to find Whittaker but he headed high over the bar.
There was much more urgency in the early moments of the second half and the fans were on their feet in 53 minutes when Darcheville broke clear on the right.
He hammered a low right from a tight angle and Malafeev made a good block. The ball broke to Ferguson and as he played the ball across the face of goal it hit Shirokov on the arm but the referee refused to award a penalty.
Then in 63 minutes Rangers threatened again. Hemdani’s ball into the box was only half-cleared and Whittaker pounced to rifle a right foot shot which Shirokov deflected for a corner.
Ferguson and Davis worked a quick one and Ulsterman tried to find the left corner with a low drive but Denisov blocked the shot on the line.
However, that sparked a Zenit breakaway which almost proved disastrous for Rangers.
Arshavin was sent scampering down the left and Alexander raced from his line to try to meet him but missed the tackle.
Arshavin then tried to measure a shot with the goal gaping but Papac got back to clear off the line.
Rangers, though, were undone in 72 minutes. No-one tracked the run of Denisov as he passed to Arshavin and the Zenit playmaker slid the ball through and Denisov stroked it past Alexander.
It was a killer blow and Rangers had to react quickly. Nacho Novo was sent on for Papac in 76 minutes and the Light Blues needed something to happen quickly.
Lee McCulloch then came in 79 minutes for Hemdani to play up top with Darcheville moving wide.
He won a flick on in 81 minutes but Novo just could not connect properly and he fired high over the bar.
Rangers had to create more pressure but they could not get the chances they wanted.
Kris Boyd came for Whittaker with four minutes remaining as Walter Smith rolled the dice for the last time.
They needed just one chance and it came in injury time. Ferguson’s long throw was flicked on to Novo but he blasted the ball high into the Manchester sky and with it went Rangers’ hopes.
Then, to add insult to injury, Zenit scored a second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Fatih Tekke looked offside as he burst clear on the left and his ball in was swept into the net by Konstantin Zyrianov.
The dream was over.