It was a mixture of the brutal and the beautiful, the savage and the sublime.
England's "Dad's Army" were forced to play for 100 minutes, but the "Grumpy Old Men" of world rugby proved up to the task.
Flatley and Wilkinson took over proceedings in the latter stages
And in Jonny Wilkinson, the youngest member of the squad, they had the man to finally end Australia's inspired resistance.
Despite twice having their grip on the Webb Ellis Trophy loosened by Elton Flatley's remarkable poise under pressure, England's resolve remained unshaken.
Ultimately, the match-winning play was a combination of the tried and trusted, and a flash of inspiration from Matt Dawson.
The scrum-half brilliantly sized up the situation inside the last minute of extra-time, after Mike Catt's initial burst from Lewis Moody's line-out take.
A quick look up, and a perfect dummy and dart from the back of a ruck took England to within 15 metres of the Australian line.
Neil Back, filling in at scrum-half, passed to Martin Johnson, who sensed Phil Waugh and George Smith were ready to pounce.
The captain took it up one more time before Dawson judged the precise moment to fire the ball back to Wilkinson.
The England stand-off, who had failed with three previous drop goal efforts, calmly hit the target when it mattered most.
Those trio of misses aside, and one wayward conversion attempt from the left touchline, Wilkinson was an inspirational presence.
His defensive work, a combination of bone-jarring hits and last-ditch scrambling, repeatedly helped stop Australia from establishing forward momentum.
Matt Giteau, three times called upon as a blood replacement for Stephen Larkham, received a memorable "welcome to the World Cup final" crunching tackle from England's hero.
6 mins: Tuqiri's try puts Australia ahead
38 mins: Robinson scores a try after three Wilkinson penalties to put England 14-5 ahead
80 mins: The hosts haul themselves level with Flatley's last-gasp penalty
82 mins: Wilkinson's penalty gives England an extra-time advantage
97 mins: Flatley strikes again to equalise at 17-17
100 mins: Wilkinson's drop goal wins England the World Cup
Johnson, too, led by example, stealing several Australian line-outs, thundering into rucks and providing reassurance when things started to turn against his side.
England should have had the game in the bag by half-time, once their superiority at the set pieces started to tell.
Having weathered the setback of Lote Tuqiri's early try, their patience was rewarded the first time they entered Australia's half with the first of Wilkinson's four penalties.
The hosts had dominated possession in the first quarter, but his second gave England a lead they held until the final kick of normal time.
It should not have come down to such fine margins.
How Ben Kay spilled the ball from Dawson's pass in the 25th minute when practically over the line will remain a mystery.
But thereafter the lock played his part in another superb defensive display, putting himself about to tremendous effect.
A superb move involving Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio, with Wilkinson providing the scoring pass for Jason Robinson, put England in the driving seat.
But remarkably they failed to score a point in the second half, as errors crept in and stupid penalties were conceded.
Wilkinson's boot proved the key difference
Five came for scrum offences despite having Australia on the back foot, with Phil Vickery completely bemused by the interpretation of referee Andre Watson.
The line-out also began to waver, David Giffin's introduction shoring up Australia's ball while Steve Thompson struggled to find his own jumpers.
In midfield Mike Tindall did a superb impression of Mike Catt with his kicking game for 50 minutes, until he sliced one into touch.
Catt later repaid the compliment by taking on the Tindall crash-ball role, giving England renewed momentum in extra-time.
England were still dominating territorially in the second half despite Australia's brave comeback, but could not convert it into points.
If Wilkinson's second drop-goal attempt nine minutes from time had not finished narrowly wide, it would probably have done for Australia.
But even when England were camped in Wallabies territory for the first half of extra-time and regained the lead, the world champions refused to lie down.
England twice had the match won, only to have victory wrenched from their grasp.
But when the opportunity came knocking a third time, they finally seized the day.