The crowd willed them forward and when Pez's chip ahead was gathered by Bergamasco in the in goal area behind the posts, the 25,000 fans at a packed Stadio Flaminio held their breaths. The try was awarded by the TMO and Wales had only moments left to avoid a fourth successive defeat in this year's RBS Six Nations. Wales poured forward, desperate to avoid defeat.
When Italy's desperate defence cracked and Wales were awarded a very kickable penalty, it seemed they had the lifeline they needed to salvage a draw with just moments to go. The visitors went for broke and Hook kicked to the corner, but before they had the chance to set up the catch and drive Chris White's whistle blew to signal the end of the match.
Victory for Italy meant they made it back-to-back wins in the Championship for the first time, while defeat leaves Wales needing to beat England next week to have any chance of avoiding the Wooden Spoon.
"We wanted to win the game; it was as simple as that. The instruction was clear from the referee that there was time for the line out," said a frustrated Gareth Jenkins. "But then there was a communication in his ear from another official that time was up and he blew for the end of the game. That was frustrating because if we had known that we would have kicked the goal and gone for the draw."
Stephen Jones's side were forced to come from behind in the second half to move into a position where they could have broken their Championship duck, but having changed the face of the game with 10 points in the opening six minutes of the second half they were cruelly overhauled by a try from chief villain Mauro Bergamasco two minutes from time.
The elder of the two Bergamasco brothers was lucky to stay on the field when TV replays appear to show him aiming a sly punch on Captain Jones in the face at a ruck, forcing the Wales skipper to leave the field for 20 minutes to have four stitches put in a cut over his right eye.
The Italians dominated possession and territory in the first half with the stiff Roman breeze at their backs and would have been happy with their opening 40 minutes work. Wales's line-out was safe, and the scrum secure, but for long periods the visitors couldn't get their hands on the ball.
Having taken only 19 seconds to notch their first try at Murrayfield the home side thought they had scored after a mere two minutes and 17 seconds when Matteo Pratichetti crossed in the left corner. Fortunately for Wales the referee called the pass from Gonzalo Canale forward and it took the Italians a further eight minutes to take the lead with the first of three penalties.
The second penalty made it 6-0 before a piece of combined magic by Hook and Tom Shanklin paved the way for ShaneWilliams to race 30 metres to the posts for his fifth try in as many games against the Azzurri towards the close of the first half. Hook converted and Wales looked comfortable enough until Kaine Robertson's dramatic kick and chase from his 22 earned the Italians a try out of nothing three minutes from the break.
Those 10 points at the start of the second half; a Hook penalty being followed by a great try from a line-out by hooker Matthew Rees which Hook converted, seemed to have put Wales in a position to close out the game and gain a much needed victory. Hook extended the lead with another penalty before Pez pegged Wales back with his third success.
Then came that Bergamasco try after six drives for Wales's line by the Italian pack and finally a chip over the top by Pez that unlocked the thin red line. It meant Wales were left in ruins at the end and still trying to find the winning formula as the 2007 Rugby World Cup gets ever nearer.
RBS Six Nations
Italy 23 Wales 20
Tries: M Bergamasco, K Robertson
Con: R Pez (2)
Pen: R Pez (3)
Tries: M Rees, S Williams
Con: S Jones, J Hook
Pen: J Hook (2)
Italy: R de Marigny; K Robertson, G Canale (M Zaffiri 21), M Bergamasco, M Pratichetti; R Pez, A Troncon; A Lo Cicero (F Staibano 59), C Festuccia, C Nieto (S Perugini 59), S Dellape, M Bortolami (capt), A Zanni (V Bernabo 61), M Bergamasco, S Parisse
Replacements used: S Perugini, F Staibano, V Bernabo, M Zaffiri
Wales: K Morgan; M Jones, T Shanklin, J Hook, S Williams; S Jones (capt, G Thomas 75), D Peel; G Jenkins (D Jones 61), M Rees (R Thomas 78), C Horsman (A Jones 58), I Gough, A Jones, A Popham, M Williams, R Jones (J Thomas 70)
Replacements used: R Thomas, D Jones, A Jones, J Thomas, G Thomas
Referee: Chris White (England)