Harry Kane scored an 85th-minute winner as England fought back from a goal down to beat Croatia 2-1 and secure a place in the Nations League Finals.
A repeat of the 2018 World Cup semi-final seemed set to end in heartbreak for England again when they fell behind to Andrej Kramaric's deflected strike in the 57th minute at Wembley.
However, substitute Jesse Lingard poked home a close-range equaliser with 12 minutes remaining, setting up a frantic finish as qualification was suddenly up for grabs again.
Captain Kane completed the turnaround, the striker overcoming a mixed performance in front of goal by poking home Ben Chilwell's cross from England's left flank.
Like his team, the striker had appeared set to endure a frustrating outing until his telling contribution; he had scuffed over the top from a corner as well as seeing Tin Jedvaj and goalkeeper Lovre Kaliinic block on-target attempts in a first half the hosts dominated.
Raheem Sterling twice wasted one-on-one opportunities too, and the misses appeared set to be costly when Croatia struck on the counter.
Kramaric appeared to have wasted the shooting opportunity when he continuously dummied onto the opposite foot, only to eventually pull the trigger with a right-footed effort that found the net via a crucial touch off Eric Dier.
However, England took the direct route to finding an equaliser, Joe Gomez's long throw flicked on by John Stones and while Kane's stabbed attempt was partially blocked, Lingard was in the right place to provide the finishing touch from under a yard.
The Manchester United winger popped up on his own goal line to make a crucial intervention in defence, hacking clear Domagoj Vida's header from a corner, before Kane struck, his finish on the stretch relegating Croatia from the top tier and gaining a modicum of revenge for the 2-1 loss in Moscow in July.
What does it mean? National pride comes through
The Nations League may not be loved by all just yet, but the possible outcomes in League A Group 4 of UEFA's competition made for a far greater spectacle than any high-profile friendly.
Croatia were jaded after their efforts in a 3-2 home win over Spain on Thursday yet fought valiantly throughout, while the must-win nature of the fixture inspired England to produce a memorable fightback in front of their fans. It may not be a major trophy, but it clearly matted to Gareth Southgate and his players.
O Captain! My Captain!
Kane had not scored in 747 minutes of international football before his stabbed finish sent England through to the last four. He was not alone in looking out of sorts, Sterling's finishing will once again come under the spotlight, but showed perseverance pays off by popping up at the end to score with his fifth shot of the match.
Sterling lacked value in front of goal
A key cog under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Sterling's England career has failed to run smoothly, albeit not always due to his on-field performances. A brace in the 3-2 win over Spain last month ended a three-year international goal drought, but the forward misfired when it mattered against Croatia. Would he have tucked those opportunities away at club level?
Key Opta Facts:
- England have won four of their last five matches (D1) after winning just one of their six before that (D1 L4).
- This was Croatia's first defeat against England since September 2009, when they lost 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
- Kramaric scored with Croatia’s first shot on target of the match.
- Lingard has scored as many goals in his last two England matches (2) as he managed in his first 20 caps for the Three Lions.
- England have won 15 of their last 16 competitive matches at Wembley (L1).
Sunday's game was the end of not just the fixtures in Group 4 but also the action for both Croatia and England in 2018. The next international break in Europe is scheduled for March. England's appearance in the Nations League Finals, meanwhile, will take place in June of next year.
13. Dezember 2018
|Emery: Arsenal could sign defender in January|
|Phillies sign McCutchen to three-year deal|
|O´Neal thinks his Lakers teams could ´easily´ beat Warriors|
|A-League to add two clubs by 2020|
|Curry says he was ´obviously joking´ about moon landing comments|
|Now the beautiful part starts – Ronaldo ready for Champions League knockout stage|
|Bayern have a lot more potential – Lewandowski not satisfied despite top spot|
|Lyon star Fekir shares plaudits for Champions League progression|
|Mourinho not surprised by United´s defeat to Valencia|
|Motivation no issue for Benfica, claims Vitoria|
|Lewandowski finishes Champions League group stage as top scorer|
|Mourinho: We scored two goals and lost 2-1!|
|England have a diamond - Guardiola hails City´s Foden|
|Sterling´s carefree display invites us to love football more than others hate|
12. Dezember 2018
|Juventus achieved their objective, despite everything going wrong – Allegri|
|Never say never - Schmidt not ruling out All Blacks role|
|Bologna´s winning start ended in BCL|
|Di Francesco critical of Roma performance|
|Shakhtar Donetsk 1 Lyon 1: Fekir fires French side through in Group F|
|Benfica 1 AEK Athens 0: Grimaldo sends hosts out on a high|
|Young Boys 2 Juventus 1: Hoarau double seals famous victory|
|Manchester City 2 Hoffenheim 1: City through as group winners after Sane brace|
|Ajax 3 Bayern Munich 3: Kovac´s men clinch top spot in Amsterdam thriller|
|Valencia 2 Manchester United 1: Jones scores own goal as Red Devils limp through|
|Solari accepts responsibility for Madrid´s heaviest home defeat in Europe|
|WATCH: Rooney backs Rocky ahead of Canelo showdown|
|McLaren to collaborate with Team Bahrain Merida|
|Las Vegas to host 2020 NFL Draft|
|Stade teenager tragically dies after neck injury|
|Cahill may need to leave Chelsea if he wants to play, admits Sarri|
|Viktoria Plzen 2 Roma 1: Chory winner takes hosts into Europa League|
|Real Madrid 0 CSKA Moscow 3: Champions humiliated at Bernabeu|
|Sarri condemns ´disgusting´ Sterling abuse|
|Hansen hails outstanding Ben Smith ahead of Pau switch|
|Foden, Sterling start for Manchester City v Hoffenheim|
|Sky decision will not affect us in 2019, insist Froome and Thomas|
|Al Ain 3 Team Wellington 3 (aet, 4-3 on penalties): Shootout heartbreak for semi-pros in Club World|
|Jackson to remain Ravens´ starting QB despite Flacco return|
|Rams headline 2019 NFL International Series home teams|
|Rams headline International Series home teams for 2019|
|Atlanta want ´exciting football´ from new boss amid Bielsa links|
|Atlanta still yet to receive ´serious´ bid for ´Bale-like´ Almiron|
|Tottenham v Manchester United to be held at Wembley|
|Matip facing six weeks out with fractured collarbone|
|I´ve had quite a lot of calls – Brailsford encouraged by Team Sky interest|
|Afghanistan Football Federation president provisionally banned by FIFA|
|Knee injury rules Huddersfield´s Mooy out of Asian Cup|
|Arnautovic tipped for Man United move by Austria team-mate Sabitzer|
|Arsenal legend Adams to become RFL president|
|My love for football still burns strong – Toure speaks out amid talk of Premier League return|
|Noble contract extended to 2021|
|Split with Sky is an opportunity, says Brailsford|
|Van der Burgh rolls back the years, two more medals for Hosszu|
|Maitland-Niles praises Sterling for speaking out|
|Life is tough for him right now - Celtic striker Griffiths to take time away from football|
|Froome: Team Sky keen to continue with new partner|
|Emery confirms Koscielny to play against Qarabag|
|Llorente keen on Athletic return|
|I love the guy - Pocock backs under-pressure Cheika|
|Fit-again Ozil in line for Arsenal return against Qarabag|
|Raheem Sterling named Premier League Player of the Month|
|Two more Ligue 1 games postponed due to unrest|
|Pace attack among India´s best ever - Arun|
|Premier League has fostered ´excessive aggression´ among fans, says Scudamore|
|Sharks back Flanagan amid NRL investigation|
|Not good for my recovery! Hoddle delights in Spurs´ Champions League heroics|
|Harris backing Starc to fire in Perth|
|No fears over Atleti´s second-place finish for Simeone|
|Clippers buckled under Raptors pressure - Rivers|
|Icardi: Inter deserved to qualify|