Jordan Pickford helped England end their penalty shootout hoodoo and reach the World Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Colombia in Moscow.
After decades stewing on his Euro 96 semi-final miss against Germany, Gareth Southgate has spent recent months trying to improve their chances in Russia if it went all the way.
Things looked set to go pear-shaped when Jordan Henderson’s penalty was saved, only for Mateus Uribe’s spot-kick to rattle the bar and goalkeeper Pickford to deny Carlos Bacca.
Eric Dier kept his composure in the Spartak Stadium cauldron, propelling the Three Lions to a famous 4-3 shootout win after it ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time.
Sweden now await in a mouth-watering Samara quarter-final on Saturday, which England approach buoyed by a display of character and coolness which belied this group’s tender years.
Things should not have got this far. England edged the first half and Colombia should have been reduced to 10 men after Wilmar Barrios headbutted Henderson, yet he inexplicably only received a booking from referee Mark Geiger.
The group managed to control their emotions, even when Raheem Sterling was barged by a Colombia coach, and captain Harry Kane epitomised their strength of character by firing home from the spot after minutes of gamesmanship.
But England never do things the easy way. Pickford’s incredible one-handed save looked to put Southgate’s men through only for Yerry Mina to jump high at a corner to head home three minutes into stoppage time.
Extra-time came and went as the match went to penalties, where the Three Lions won the shootout and their first knockout match since 2006.
It was an amazing end to a remarkable evening.
Jose Pekerman’s side looked intent on outfighting England without injured star James Rodriguez, with the Three Lions’ unhappiness at set-piece manhandling made clear early on.
Kane strained to meet a fine Kieran Trippier cross that he could only direct onto the roof of the as Juan Quintero looked most likely to unpick the lock at the other end.
England lacked such a creative force and their captain surged forward looking to change things. It brought a free-kick and plenty of controversy.
Barrios, who pushed Sterling to the deck earlier in proceedings, planted a headbutt into Henderson’s chest and up to his chin as the players jostled in the wall.
England’s players fumed and Harry Maguire called for the video assistant referee, yet referee Geiger inexplicably only handed out a booking when information came through his headset.
Trippier eventually bent that free-kick wide and Kane drove wide before the break, where Sterling’s close attention continued as a Colombian coach barged him.
England returned with the bit between their teeth and Geiger soon pointed to the spot.
Colombia’s players were strangely put out by the decision to pull Carlos Sanchez up for wrestling Kane to the deck, yet Henderson was the only player booked in a lengthy wait that ended with England’s captain smashing home.
Dele Alli, who had earlier looked set to be withdrawn through injury, headed over a fine Trippier cross as tensions threatened to bubble, with bookings dished out at will.
Jesse Lingard nearly found Kane and felt he should have won a penalty as Maguire kept getting away headers as Colombia looked set to fall short.
The exasperation was palpable when Juan Cuadrado’s miss on the break, just as when Pickford’s world-class stoppage-time save denied Uribe’s stunning long-range effort.
But the corner that followed brought heartache as towering Mina rose to head the ball into the ground, with Trippier only able to direct in off the underside of the bar.
It was a stunning end to normal time that left England ragged and reeling. After struggling through the opening period, Southgate’s men ended on top as Jamie Vardy, Danny Rose and Dier had attempts.
Yet there was no avoiding penalties. The first five found the net before Henderson was denied by a fine save by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina.
However, Uribe’s attempt hit the crossbar and Kieran Trippier levelled, then Pickford produced a super one-handed save to deny Bacca, before Dier fired home the winner.