England coach Brian Ashton said his players deserved to enjoy their World Cup quarter-final win over Australia.
Nick Easter (centre) leads England's celebrations
The players were slated after their 36-0 loss to South Africa but that was a distant memory as they pulled off a thrilling 12-10 win in Marseille.
"We put a tremendous amount of work in since the South Africa game and have reaped the reward," said Ashton.
"In the first 30 minutes we played some of the best rugby anyone's played against Australia in recent years."
Captain Phil Vickery admitted it was not a game for rugby purists but was thrilled with the result.
"It was probably not the purest game of rugby, but it was fantastic to be part of," he said.
I think every man and his dog had written us off. But I said there was a good performance in there - and today we showed that
"I don't know (how we did it) - a bit of belief, just doggedness and determination.
"We've had a tough tournament. It's been difficult, and we've been put under huge amounts of pressure. Today was fantastic for all the boys and English supporters."
Jason Robinson, who is retiring after the tournament, said their team spirit had helped them win a game in which the majority of pundits gave them little chance.
"I think every man and his dog had written us off. But I said there was a good performance in there - and today we showed that," he said.
"We just dug deep and believed in ourselves. Maybe only 30 people in the world (the squad) believed we would do it, but we stuck together and came out with a great win."
When number eight Nick Easter was asked if the team had surprised anyone with the win, he said: "Outside our changing room, but not inside it. We knew we could win."