Maxime Machenaud’s early try and the boot of Dan Carter kept Leicester Tigers at bay as Racing 92 held on to secure their passage through to a first-ever European Rugby Champions Cup final.
Machenaud crossed inside three minutes for the French visitors to the City Ground and from that point on the Aviva Premiership Rugby side were always playing catch-up.
The combined boots of Freddie Burns and Owen Williams kept the Tigers in touch but World Cup winner Carter was dead-eyed from the tee for Racing.
And although Telusa Veainu did wriggle over late on for the Tigers it was too little too late and their wait for a first European final since 2009 goes on.
Racing will face Aviva Premiership Rugby table toppers Saracens in the final in three weeks time in Lyon.
The French side were playing in their first-ever semi-final of Europe’s premier competition but they made the dream start in Nottingham courtesy of Machenaud’s early try.
Joe Rokocoko made the initial break around the ruck and when the forwards got Machenaud close to the line the scrum-half darted over.
Carter slotted the extras for a 7-0 lead and they could have been further ahead in a dominant first quarter of an hour.
Johannes Goosen pulled a long-range penalty attempt wide and Carter missed with a drop goal from in front but the former All Black made amends in the 20th minute with his first penalty.
Despite trailing by ten points the Tigers were on top at scrum time. However Racing’s fierce defence was proving tough to breach until finally Burns slotted a penalty just before the half-hour mark.
That was pretty much Burns' last action of the game however, the fly-half limping off to be replaced by Williams before the break and the Welshman’s first contribution was to slot a penalty and trim Racing’s lead to 10-6.
However the French side went up the other end and replied with a penalty of their own, Carter making no mistake to leave them 13-6 in front at the break.
The Tigers started much the brighter of the two sides after the interval and Williams made no mistake with an early penalty to cut the gap back to only four points.
Once again though Carter made the Tigers pay when he got the chance and his third penalty of the afternoon bisected the posts to make it 16-9.
The Tigers’ handling errors in the face of fantastic French defence was their undoing and on the hour mark it looked like the visitors had put the game to bed.
Chris Masoe and Machenaud combined beautifully down the short side and when the ball came back to the right Goosen cut a fantastic line to score what looked like the pivotal score.
But after length deliberation with his TMO, referee Nigel Owens ruled out the score for a forward pass right at the start of the move between Masoe and Machenaud and the Tigers could breathe again.
When Racing lost Alexandre Dumoulin to a shoulder injury Carter had to slide to inside centre with Remi Tales at fly-half but even then their defensive line held firm.
And when Goosen slotted a huge penalty in the 74th minute to make it a ten-point lead the Tigers needed a miracle.
But they almost provided it when replacement Adam Thompstone got clear down the right and offloaded to Veainu to go over, Williams miraculously slotting the rushed conversion as well.
That left the score at 19-16 and the Tigers still had time to claim the kick off but it was a big ask to go from one end of the pitch to the other and Racing held on to secure an historic victory.
Leicester Tigers: Mathew Tait, Telusa Veainu, Peter Betham, Manu Tuilagi, Vereniki Goneva, Freddie Burns, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Harry Thacker, Dan Cole, Dom Barrow, Graham Kitchener, Mike Fitzgerald, Lachlan McCaffrey, Opeti Fonua.
Replacements: Greg Bateman, Logovi'i Mulipola, Fraser Balmain, Ed Slater, Tom Croft, Sam Harrison, Owen Williams, Adam Thompstone.
Racing 92: Brice Dulin, Joe Rokocoko, Johannes Goosen, Alexandre Dumoulin, Juan Imhoff, Dan Carter, Maxime Machenaud; Eddy Ben Arous, Virgile Lacombe, Ben Tameifuna, Luke Charteris, Francois van der Merwe, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux, Chris Masoe.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Khatchik Vartanov, Luc Ducalcon, Manuel Carizza, Antonie Claassen, Mike Phillips, Remi Tales, Louis Dupichot.
Penalties: Burns, Williams 2
Penalties: Carter 3, Goosen
Referee: Nigel Owens