Two goals from Harry Kane rescued England in their World Cup opener against Tunisia in Volgograd, and sparked jubilant scenes across the country as fans celebrated the late winner.
England’s seemingly age-old problem of struggling to break down a committed and organised defence so nearly came back to haunt them once again.
IN PICTURES: England win World Cup opener against Tunisia
But that didn’t matter to thousands of fans around the country once Kane’s header went in, with many of the moments being caught on social media. From the O2 Academy in Leeds, to pubs in London, Croydon, Surrey and everywhere inbetween, triumphant fans celebrated the winner and footage of the absolute scenes have gone viral.
WATCH HOW FANS BACK HOME REACTED TO HARRY KANE’S WINNING GOAL:
Kane scored an 11th minute tap-in and an injury time header either side of a penalty from Ferjani Sassi as England won 2-1 to go level on points with Belgium at the top of Group G.
AS IT UNFOLDED: Tunisia v England
READ MORE: England player ratings – How the Three Lions performed
However, the Jekyll and Hyde performance is unlikely to strike fear into any of their World Cup rivals and Belgium will remain favourites for the group based on this performance.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions seemed to cower under the spotlight, as the pressure – and the noise in the crowd – ramped up in the second half.
Passes went astray, simple balls were allowed to run out of play, and the deep crosses which had been so dangerous in the first half somehow became innocuous as the match wore on.
Making it all the more worse for England was that they had promised so much more when the match got underway.
For the first 45 minutes, the Three Lions played with a confidence and vibrancy rarely seen by England sides at recent World Cups.
Southgate had named an attacking line up with Kyle Walker in a back three, and Jordan Henderson as the only holding midfielder playing behind a trio of Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard.
England almost scored inside two minutes when Henderson found Alli in behind the Tunisian defence, the Spurs star then squared the ball for Lingard but his first-time shot was saved by goalkeeper Mouez Hassan’s outstretched foot.
Alli and Lingard were at it again just two minutes later when Alli’s through ball cut out three defenders but Lingard was slightly off-side before he crossed the ball – sparing Raheem Sterling’s blushes when he missed the open goal.
When the goal finally came after 10 minutes, it was captain Kane who gave England the lead they totally deserved.
A John Stones header was brilliantly saved by Hassan, but he could only parry the ball directly to Kane for a simple tap-in.
Kane’s opener was also the last action for Hassan who left the field in tears after injuring his shoulder.
Rather than sit back, the Three Lions pressed for a second and Henderson tested substitute keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha with a powerful long-range shot after brilliant work by Walker and Kieran Trippier on the right.
Lingard then had a golden opportunity to score England’s second when Ashley Young found him unmarked at the far post but he couldn’t connect and he could only put the ball out for a goal kick.
England should have been out of sight, however they were made to pay for their profligacy by a moment of madness from Walker.
England’s no.2 was facing his own goal when he caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with an elbow, and Sassi made no mistake from the spot.
The Three Lions pressed for a second as the first half ran down but they continued to squander chances. Stones fluffed his lines following a goalmouth scramble, before Lingard beat goalkeeper Ben Mustapha but the ball flicked the outside of the post.
However, the second half was a totally different story. The Three Lions were listless and struggled to create a single chance of note until Kane’s winner.
Until his late intervention, Kane struggled to inject himself into the second half while Alli, Sterling and Lingard – so vibrant earlier in the match – were virtually anonymous after the break.
Perhaps of most concern was the apparent lack of urgency to chase the game and take the contest to Tunisia.
Southgate tried to shake things up by bringing on Marcus Rashford and Reuben Loftus-Cheek for Sterling and Alli respectively in the final 20 minutes but the malaise seemed to affect the the two as well.
Rashford had a great chance to shoot but left the ball for Lingard, who then lost possession in the box, while Loftus-Cheek threatened to sum up the second period when he beat his man on the right but couldn’t catch up to the ball as it ran behind for a goal kick.
However, Kane popped up to spare his and his teammates’ blushes in the 91st minute.
Harry Maguire’s nod on from a corner inexplicably left the striker in yards of space, allowing him to beat Ben Mustapha at his near post, and hand England a precious but hardly confidence-building win.
Key Opta Stats
England scored more than once for the first time in 10 World Cup matches, since a 2-2 draw against Sweden in 2006.
Tunisia are winless in their last 12 World Cup matches (D4 L8), since winning their first ever match in the competition in 1978 (3-1 vs Mexico).
England are unbeaten in their seven meetings with African nations in the World Cup (W4 D3 L0), though this was only the second such match in which they failed to keep a clean sheet.
England had six shots on target in the first half, their most in the opening 45 minutes of a World Cup match since the 1966 semi-final against Portugal (also six). By contrast they had just two shots on target in the second half.
Tunisia scored with their only shot on target in this match, their 35th minute penalty.
Harry Kane has scored in each of his last four games for England, his best ever run for the Three Lions.
Harry Kane has scored 15 goals in 25 appearances for England. The last player to score more in their opening 25 games for England was Gary Lineker (20).
Tunisia’s Ferjani Sassi scored the first penalty goal against England in regular play in a World Cup match since Gabriel Batistuta for Argentina in 1998.
England’s Kieran Trippier created six goalscoring opportunities tonight, more than any other player has managed so far in the 2018 World Cup.
Harry Kane became the first England player to score a brace in a World Cup match since Gary Lineker against Cameroon in 1990.