England recorded a famous win over old foes Argentina to take a giant step towards World Cup qualification from Group F.
Once again captain David Beckham was the hero, stroking home a penalty after great work from Michael Owen seconds before half-time.
And in the second half England's defence stepped to the fore, standing firm to claim a memorable win as Argentina mounted wave upon wave of attack.
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson got his tactics just right in front of a passionate crowd at the Sapporo Dome in northern Japan.
The 1-0 score line lifted England to second place in their group and went a long way towards avenging painful defeats to Argentina at Mexico 86 and France 98.
Having lost Owen Hargreaves to injury during a cagey opening 20 minutes, he threw on Trevor Sinclair and watched his men dominate possession.
Beckham was inspirational as playmaker and Owen made darting runs to stretch the Argentine defence across the field.
With increased possession came their first good chance of the game, created by Nicky Butt and almost converted by attacking ace Owen.
An Owen run earned the first-half penalty
The Liverpool man latched on to an immaculate through ball and slotted though Pablo Cavallero's legs only to watch his shot rebound off the Argentine post.
England surged forward and were rewarded for their aggression in the 44th minute when Owen won a penalty after being tripped by Mauricio Pochettino.
Beckham stepped up and scored emphatically to secure a half-time lead.
Clearly pumped up by Eriksson's words of enouragement, England stepped further into the ascendency after the restart and should have been rewarded with a second goal.
The way ahead
Owen stole half a yard and should have done better with the goal at his mercy. Then, Beckham wriggled free in the Argentine box, shooting wide with only Cavallero to beat.
Teddy Sheringham - on as a substitute for the excellent Heskey - had the next chance.
Paul Scholes - who had just fired in a spectacular shot of his own - floated a pin-point cross over and the Tottenham striker volleyed fiercely at Cavallero from 15 yards.
After Sheringham had spurned a second opportunity, Argentina upped the pressure only to be denied by spirited defending.
I think we deserved to win
Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell stood particularly tall and David Seaman pulled off a couple of spectacular saves.
Waves of South American pressure paid no dividends.
There may yet be life for England after the World Cup's "Group of Death".
Argentina: Pablo Cavallero, Mauricio Pochettino, Walter Samuel, Diego Placente, Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone, Juan Sebastian Veron (Pablo Aimar 45), Juan Pablo Sorin, Ariel Ortega, Gabriel Batistuta (Hernan Crespo 60), Kily Gonzalez (Claudio Lopez 64)
Subs Not Used: Matias Almeyda, Roberto Ayala, Roberto Bonano, German Burgos, Claudio Caniggia, Jose Chamot, Marcelo Gallardo, Claudio Husain, Gustavo Lopez
England: David Seaman, Danny Mills, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Owen Hargreaves (Trevor Sinclair 19), Michael Owen (Wayne Bridge 80), Emile Heskey (Teddy Sheringham 56)
Subs Not Used: Wes Brown, Joe Cole, Kieron Dyer, Robbie Fowler, David James, Martin Keown, Nigel Martyn, Gareth Southgate, Darius Vassell.
Booked: Ashley Cole, Heskey
Referee: Pierluigi Collina (Italy)
MATCH STATS |
| Argentina | England |
Corners (1st half) | 2 | 2 |
Corners (2nd half) | 7 | 1 |
Fouls committed | 21 | 20 |
Caught offside | 5 | 2 |
Shots on target | 5 | 8 |
Shots off target | 7 | 7 |
Hit woodwork (back into play) | 0 | 1 |
Yellow cards | 1 | 2 |
Red cards | 0 | 0 |
STOPPAGE TIME | |
First half - 2 mins | Second half - 2 mins |