No sleight of hand was required to overcome Ireland this time but there was still plenty of magic from France's Antoine Griezmann whose brace sealed a come-from-behind victory for the host.
Didier Deschamps' side had started the match as overwhelming favourites, unbeaten in their last 15 games at major tournaments on home soil, winning 13 and drawing two. Their last loss to the Irish was in 1981.
But that run looked in danger within 60 seconds of the whistle. A clumsy challenge from midfield star Paul Pogba on Shane Long resulted in a penalty which Robbie Brady drilled into the net, via a deflection off the upright.
It stunned the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon as a seismic upset looked on the cards. The host were rocked but responded positively and quickly carved out numerous chances to equalise but were let down by wasteful finishing from Dimitri Payet, Olivier Giroud and Griezmann himself.
Ireland defended brilliantly but were not content to sit back and soak up the pressure, finding moments to attack and looked dangerous each time they entered the French half.
They almost extended their lead in the second half but Hugo Lloris made an important save from a James McClean cross to prevent Long from an easy tap-in.
The game changed in the span of 225 seconds though as France's relentless pressure paid off. Right-back Bacary Sagna's cross in the 58th minute was met by a powerful header from Griezmann and flew past Ireland's goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
The Atletico Madrid got his second - and third overall for the tournament to make him joint-top scorer alongside Gareth Bale and Alvaro Morata - of the night three minutes later when he latched onto a cushioned header from Giroud and stroked the ball into the corner to complete the fightback.
He was also responsible for Shane Duffy's dismissal. The Ireland centre-back was shown a red card in the 66th minute for a late tackle on Griezmann, who was through on goal.
France were completely dominant after that and could have scored more but were denied by some outstanding saves by Randolph, who made nine in total.
France move into the quarter-final and will play either England or Iceland on Sunday at the Stade de France.
- Ireland get off to a sensational start as Shane Long wins a penalty within 60 seconds after he is clumsily bundled over by Paul Pogba. Robbie Brady steps up and coverts, his low shot hitting the upright and spinning into the net in the 3rd min.
- The host win a freekick on the edge of the box in the 8th min and Dimitri Payet takes charge but hits it straight at his West Ham teammate Darren Randolph. Seconds later, Antoine Griezmann has a free header but can't direct his effort on goal.
- Shane Duffy makes a superb defensive header to prevent Olivier Giroud from getting onto a delicious Grizemann cross in the 12th min.
- France carve out another chance in the 18th min when Payet finds Griezmann from a freekick but his flicked header is easily collected by Randolph.
- An Ireland throw-in in the 21st min causes havoc in the France area and Daryl Murphy hooks a shot at goal which a sprawling Hugo Lloris saves.
-Three minutes later, Pogba wins a freekick 30m from goal. He gets up and bends a fine effort but Randolph stretches and makes a relatively easy save.
- France have a series of half-chances in added time but Payet and Grizemann's scuffed shots are blocked by the diving bodies of Irish defenders.
- Another Payet freekick minutes after the restart sees the ball flicked on to Laurent Koscielny at the back post but his diving header flashes wide.
- James McClean sends a dangerous cross from the left in the 52nd min and Lloris makes an important save to prevent a simple tap-in by Long.
- The intense French pressure finally pays off in the 58th min as Bacary Sagna delivers a wicked cross from t he right and Griezmann, on the penalty spot, rises high to plant a firm header past Randolph.
- Griezmann gets his second three minutes later. A lovely cushioned header from Giroud is nodded into his path and he finishes calmly into the corner to complete the comeback.
- The Atletico Madrid winger is unstoppable. He is through on goal in the 66th min and is hacked down by Duffy, who is sent off.
- Substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac's effort in the 77th minute crashes against the cross bar.
- His 86th min side-foot effort flashes just past of the far post. He scuffs another shot and shakes his head in disgust.
The talking point
This was France's first true test and while they struggled initially and walked off at half-time to a chorus of boos from their home supporters, they eventually roused themselves and produced a stirring second-half showing. Switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation after the break and bringing on Coman for the defensive Kante was a positive move from Deschamps. France showed strong resolve in the face of adversity and were able to block out the negative atmosphere from unhappy fans. That should stand them in good stead as they face tougher challenges ahead.
Man of the match
He might have stuttered in the first half but Griezmann came alive after the restart. He took both his goals with aplomb and was magnificent for France. It was his run through on goal that also forced Duffy into a late tackle that saw the Irish centre-half dismissed and end Ireland's hopes of a fightback. The 25-year-old is the first Frenchman to score three goals at a Euros since Zinedine Zidane did so in 2004.
What the result means
France have a week to recuperate and prepare for their quarter-final match on Sunday against either England or Iceland. Confidence in the French camp will be high after this second-half turnaround. For the brave Irish, they will return home slightly rueful of what might have been but will take plenty of heart from coming so close to a stunning upset.
All six of France's goals at this Euros have arrived in the second half. This was also the first time since the 2004 edition (a 2-1 win over England) that Les Bleus have come from behind to win a game.
What they said
Griezmann: "I started the game well, I came a bit deeper to get the ball. A goal gives you a boost and I was able to get the second. We didn't play well in the first half, we - coach and players - said some things in the dressing room. We're playing for France and we gave everything we had - and the fans helped us get over the line.
"We knew it would be a hard game and we'll have to look at what we did well and didn't do so well.
"I'm here for the coach and the team - if I play on the left, the right and the penalty area, I'll give everything I can. Playing further up the pitch is easier for me though - that's where I normally play."
Ireland captain Seamus Coleman: "We are disappointed. We felt it was there for us and we gave our all. It shows how well we have done that we are disappointed getting beat, We wanted to go further for the fans but we hope we made people proud. The fans here and at home are amazing. It is a special bond between the fans and the players.
"We took a lot of belief from the Italy game. Second half was always going to be tough but we couldn't keep the first half performance going.
"Shane [DUFFY], in the last game and up until the red card today, has been sensational."