England finally made their presence felt at the World Cup by securing the win they needed over Slovenia to reach the last 16, and a clash with arch-rivals Germany on Sunday.
Jermain Defoe's close-range strike midway through the first half was enough to give Fabio Capello's side the three points they required to avoid an early departure from South Africa and finish second behind the United States in Group C.
And after the misery of Friday's draw against Algeria in Cape Town and the controversy surrounding former captain John Terry's comments about the mood in the camp, Capello will have been delighted to see England produce a hugely improved performance under pressure.
The only serious flaw in England's display was their failure to finish off Slovenia after dominating proceedings.
Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic kept England at bay with fine saves from Defoe and Steven Gerrard - then blocked Terry's header before turning Wayne Rooney's shot on to a post after the break.
That led to a needlessly anxious final phase in a game England should have won comfortably.
The delighted reaction of Capello's players, who gathered in a celebratory huddle at the final whistle told the story - in sharp contrast to the reaction of the Slovenians, who were in despair as news filtered through of Landon Donovan's late winner for the United States against Algeria.
England's only mission was to secure the win. Now Capello and his players will hope they can make their mark in South Africa after a faltering start to their campaign.
They needed to make amends for the lifeless performance against Algeria that left them fighting to survive the group phase, and after a nervous opening Capello's changes took effect.
Defoe's goal-poaching instincts are in sharp contrast to the honest-but-blunt efforts of Emile Heskey, who he replaced in the starting line-up, and the value of such a marksman was illustrated as the Tottenham striker gave England the lead after 22 minutes.
He reacted sharply to James Milner's cross from close range, and even though Handanovic got hands on the ball, the effort carried too much power.
England, buoyed by the confidence the goal had given them, went in search of the crucial second and almost got it in a period of intense pressure that followed Defoe's strike.
Frank Lampard could not turn a loose ball in after Handanovic failed to hold Milner's cross, but the keeper then did well to deny Defoe and England captain Gerrard in quick succession.
Slovenia had given glimpses of the talent that had taken them to the top of the group after two games with Valter Birsa testing David James, but England had assumed control after the opening exchanges.
Defoe should have doubled England's advantage moments after the break, but he shot wide from only eight yards after Gareth Barry returned Handanovic's punch into the box.
England were completely on top, and only a moment of over-elaboration between Rooney and Gerrard cost them an opening they had created superbly.
The only concern about England's display was the failure to reflect their supremacy in the scoreline, with Handanovic blocking Terry's header from a Barry corner and then getting fingertips to Rooney's effort to divert it on to the woodwork from Lampard's incisive pass.
And this was giving Slovenia encouragement in a game they should have been out of, as was shown when Terry and Glen Johnson blocked from Milijove Novakovic before Birsa shot wide.
It was the signal for Capello to make a change, removing Rooney - who had been limping slightly - for Joe Cole.
And as Slovenia pushed in the closing stages, James was well protected as they closed out a victory that eased the pressure on Capello and his players.
Now their attention will turn to the clash against old adversaries Germany, who beat Ghana to finish top of Group D.
Attempts on target
Attempts off target
Projected table based on current scores
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