The power went out. Then the 49ers made a comeback until their luck -- and their downs -- ran out. Then time ran out.

Then the emotions spilled out.

"I'm frustrated," said 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman. "It leaves a bitter taste in our mouth."

Actually, there were all sorts of tastes -- and all sorts of twists -- during the course of an exhausting Super Bowl that took more than four hours to play because of a 34-minute power outage at the Superdome.

But when the wild ride stopped, Baltimore owned a 34-31 victory over the 49ers. It could have been otherwise. But the 49ers blew a golden opportunity on their final offensive series with a strange set of play calls inside the Ravens' 10-yard line.

Let the second-guessing begin. That is, as soon as everyone sits down and figures out exactly what happened.

Wouldn't you love to be at the next Harbaugh family reunion to hear the dinnertime discussion?

"I thought we battled right to the brink of winning," said 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. "It was a heck of a football game."

"You know what the turning point of the game was?" John Harbaugh, the Ravens coach, asked the media. "The final play."

The game will be remembered as a classic and legendary and crazy Super Bowl. And in the Bay Area, it will be remembered as a game the 49ers lost, not a game the Baltimore Ravens won.

"I respect them," running back Frank Gore said of the Ravens. "But we're the better team."

He might be correct. But the better team does not always win. The team that plays better almost always does. Baltimore did when it mattered.

The Ravens played better at the start, when they blitzed out to a 28-6 lead based on sharp play and a 108-yard kickoff return. And the Ravens played better at the finish when they stopped the 49ers offense on that last-gasp offensive series.

In between those two moments, the 49ers owned the game. They outscored the Ravens in that middle stretch, 23-3, following the unexpected power blinkout early in the third quarter that seemed to sap Baltimore's momentum.

But it was not enough. The 49ers were ultimately doomed by the early deficit -- helped along by two turnovers -- and their late failure to score.

"What you take away from that game," said 49ers fullback Bruce Miller, "is that if you lose the turnover battle and let them run a kickoff back for a touchdown at the start of the second half, your chances of winning go down."

For several minutes in the fourth quarter, however, the 49ers appeared in the best possible position to win. They had roared from behind to 34-29 on the scoreboard, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick had recovered from early shakiness to look solid. The offensive line was steam-shoveling Baltimore defenders backward.

When the 49ers' offense set up shop at the Ravens' 7-yard line with 2:39 remaining in the game after driving downfield with some terrific Kaepernick playmaking, even the Baltimore bench was expecting the worst. Flacco was preparing for the 49ers to go ahead and was readying himself for his own potential desperation, last-minute drive.

"To be honest," Flacco said, "I'm thinking, 'Those guys are probably going to put the ball in the end zone and we're going to have to go down and kick a field goal to win or tie it. That was what I was getting my mindset ready to do."

"I think everybody was thinking that," said 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone.

Instead, the 49ers gained just two yards over the next four plays, all dialed up by offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who had been brilliantly creative all season and through much of the second half. Roman picked a bad series to have a bad series.

Instead of handing the ball to Gore, who had been gashing the Ravens regularly behind the line, the 49ers handed the ball to backup running back LaMichael James on first down for that 2-yard gain to the 5-yard line.

On second down, Kaepernick rolled right and couldn't find a receiver open as the Ravens clogged up open spaces. The third-down choice was a pedestrian play-action call that was incomplete to well-covered receiver Michael Crabtree.

And the fourth-down call? It was a risky fade pattern to Crabtree in the end zone. He and Baltimore defensive back Jimmy Smith put hands on each other -- Crabtree might have initiated contact -- and the ball fell to the turf. There was no penalty call. And the 49ers were essentially done.

Jim Harbaugh said he wanted to handle the loss "with class and grace," but he couldn't hold back his thoughts on the noncall, saying there was "no question" that Crabtree was held and interfered with on the 49ers' final offensive down. The truth is, even if the flag was deserved, the 49ers had plenty of other opportunities to win and shouldn't have had to rely on the bad luck of not getting the flag.

"Five yards short," said offensive tackle Joe Staley. "All the work we did in the offseason, the whole entire season, everything came down to five yards, and we weren't able to get it done. We tip our hats to the Ravens. Congratulations to them. We're obviously very disappointed."

"I'm surprised they didn't try to run it with Frank Gore on any of those downs," said Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. "He was the most dangerous back."

Fullback Bruce Miller defended the calls.

"We put the ball in the hands of a couple of guys who made the plays for us all year," Miller said. "Why not go back to them there?"

When asked why Gore didn't handle the ball on those last four plays, Harbaugh's answer was: "We had other plays called."

They came up one short. And the lights went out. Again.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.