England (19) 36
Paul Sackey scored two first-half tries for England
Tries: Sackey 2, Tait, Farrell
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop-goals: Wilkinson 2
Tonga (10) 20
Tries: Hufanga, Pole
Cons: Hola 2
Pens: Hola 2
Champions England clinched a World Cup quarter-final against Australia with an ultimately convincing win over Tonga.
Tonga opened the scoring through Sukanaivalu Hufanga's sparkling try but two Paul Sackey scores helped England into a 19-10 half-time lead.
Pierre Hola's second penalty saw Tonga reduce the lead to six points.
But Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell went over to secure victory before Hale T Pole's late consolation, while Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points in Paris.
The England fly-half now has 222 World Cup points and is just five behind Gavin Hastings, who is the competition's all-time leading scorer with 227.
No champions had ever failed to reach the knock-out stages at the World Cup, but following their dismal start to the tournament there had been real fears England would crash out before the last eight.
They had showed signs of life in the win over Samoa but Tonga had beaten their Pacific Island rivals and then pushed South Africa right to the last whistle.
The pre-match script suggested the Sea Eagles' pace and power was likely to trouble England initially before the defending champions' set-piece ability, superior tactical game and greater fitness began to bear fruit, and so it proved.
Tonga threatened from the first whistle with Epi Taione and Finau Maka blasting into the England midfield and they took the lead after 10 minutes.
There looked to be little danger when Mark Cueto fielded a poor Tonga kick but the Sale winger dithered and Tonga captain Nili Latu wrapped him up.
Cueto held on as the ruck formed and Hola stepped up to drill the penalty between the posts, but England were level within three minutes after Tonga handled in a ruck and Wilkinson opened his account for the night.
Tonga enjoyed the best of the territory in the opening quarter and they went back in front with a fine try after 17 minutes.
Taione handed off former Newcastle team-mate Wilkinson and fed Hufanga, who beat three men before sliding over by the posts despite inside centre Olly Barkley's attempted tackle.
Hola converted but England hit back immediately with a dramatic score.
Tonga infringed as England drove at the heart of their defence from the re-start and it looked as though Wilkinson would take the shot at goal, but instead he kicked to the right wing.
The giant Joseph Vaka had left Sackey unattended and the Wasps flyer just managed to catch the ball and get it down before rolling over the dead ball line.
Wilkinson, who had spoken earlier in the week about his trouble timing his kicks with the official World Cup ball, caught his conversion attempt horribly and missed the posts by miles.
England winger Mark Cueto (bottom) halts an attack
As the game moved deeper into the half England's upper hand in the set-piece began to pay dividends and Wilkinson knocked over a trademark drop-goal and a regulation penalty to put the defending champions 14-10 up.
Undaunted, Tonga went back on the attack, with the likes of Taione battering away at England's thin white line, but when Hola threw a poor pass it fell at the feet of Sackey.
He was on England's 22 but the Wasps winger has pace to burn and Hufanga gave up the chase with 30m still to go.
Wilkinson once again missed the conversion attempt to the left of the posts but England were 19-0 up and the quarter-finals were in sight.
The rain which began to hammer down during the half-time interval benefited England, who had a better kicking game and the advantage in the set-piece.
But they missed the chance to extend their lead when Wilkinson missed a kickable penalty - yet again to the left - after the battered and bloodied Lewis Moody fell victim to a high tackle by the otherwise excellent Tonga captain Latu.
The let-off boosted Tonga's morale and, after England brought on former Great Britain rugby league captain Farrell for Barkley with just under half an hour to play, they trimmed the gap with a second Hola penalty.
England looked a little rattled but within three minutes the scoreline had a very different air.
Cueto dummied his way through the Tonga defence and although he failed to find the supporting Farrell, when England switched play to the left Tait sliced over for the try.
While Wilkinson was adding the conversion to make it 26-13 England captain Phil Vickery sauntered on with the air of a gunslinger walking into "his" saloon before embracing Matt Stevens, the man who kept him out of the starting line-up.
Farrell looked fired up from his first touch and after 66 minutes he made the game safe, cutting back against the grain to score his first try for England after dummying a run-around with Wilkinson.
The Newcastle fly-half kicked the conversion and added a late drop-goal and although Pole went over for a last-gasp converted try, the champions ensured their defence of the Webb Ellis trophy will last for another week at least.
England: Lewsey; Sackey, Tait, Barkley, Cueto; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Chuter, Stevens, Borthwick, Kay, Corry (capt), Moody, Easter
Replacements: Mears, Vickery, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Farrell, Hipkiss.
Tonga: Lilo; Tu'ifua, Hufanga, Taione, Vaka; Hola, Tu'ipulotu; Tonga'uiha, Lutui, Pulu, Vaki, Fa'aoso, Pole, Latu (capt), Maka
Replacements: Taukafa, Taufa'ao Filise, Molitika, Afeaki, Havea, Huson Tonga'uiha, Havili.