Finally the wait is over. And with it, they banished the ghosts of previous failures.
The glory we began to think we would never see again of England winning a penalty shoot-out.
Somehow they did it, they survived every emotion going and then mercifully up stepped Eric Dier to fire home England’s fifth penalty.
It was a torturous night in Moscow but it ended wonderfully with England’s heroes celebrating wildly after 120 painful minutes when they thought they had blewn it – and then won it.
From the heartbreak of conceding an injury time equaliser, the nerves of penalties and then the glory of breaking the spot kick curse.
England’s first knock-out victory in 12 years has given Gareth Southgate an incredible path to glory, the chance of a lifetime at this World Cup.
Now they face Sweden in Samara on Saturday and, if they can get past that test, then they face Russia or Croatia in the semi finals.
Yes, we are getting carried away but surely you are allowed that on the day that England win a penalty shoot-out, only their second in eight attempts.
Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Kieran Trippier and then Dier were the heroes from the spot but England keeper Jordan Pickford also defied Carlos Bacca with a terrific save while Mateus Uribe missed. Jordan Henderson’s spot kick was saved by David Ospina but Pickford spared him.
No wonder Gareth Southgate, still looking elegant in his waistcoat, raced to his players to celebrate as, after all, England are not supposed to do this.
Instead, now if England can win on penalties – this was only their second win in eight tournament shoot-outs – then anything is possible.
A glorious night never to be forgotten as Colombia’s players were left in tears, England’s could not contain their joy and, defying their aching limbs, they made their way to the traveling army of fans.
They will have celebrated long into the night in Moscow because to emerge from such a test, such a bruising encounter in which Colombia tried to kick them off the pitch, shows true mental strength.
From the disaster of losing to Iceland in Euro 2016 when they crumbled, they now have a determination and inner strength which will allow them to dream of glory.
It was an incredible game, one full of controversy and a US referee Mark Geiger who failed to control a spiky game which was more wrestling than football match.
The biggest flashpoint of the first half came after 40 minutes and Colombia should have had defender Wilmar Barrios sent off. How he escaped with a yellow card rather than a red is a mystery and yet another failing for VAR.
The referee was also simply not up to keeping control of what was rapidly becoming a bad blooded, nasty and snarling grappling match. In fact, Geiger was stinking the place out.
But, finally, Geiger managed to spot something at a set piece. Mind you, it was right in front of him.
Over came an England corner, Carlos Sanchez blatantly upended Kane at the back post, pulled him down to the floor and the referee pointed straight to the spot.
Amid all of Colombia’s complaints and the inevitable referral to VAR, it took an incredible three minutes and 31 seconds from the penalty being awarded to Kane actually stepping up to take it.
Tottenham striker Kane, facing Arsenal keeper Ospina, won the battle of North London wills, smashing the ball down the middle for his sixth goal of the tournament.
But England failed to seize the moment, failed to take their chance – and nearly let it slip away. They had chances on the break, Alli headed over, Jesse Lingard went clear and yet England could not kill off Colombia.
Kyle Walker’s mistake let Colombia in but Juan Cuadrado blazed over the crossbar. But heartbreakingly for England, they let it slip in the third minute of injury time. Colombia substitute Uribe’s long range effort forced a brilliant save from Jordan Pickford.
It went out for a corner and Cuadrado’s ball into the box caused chaos, Yerry Mina jumped high and headed the ball downwards and it somehow went in despite Trippier being on the post and heading the ball onto the bar, it went in.
Colombia could not believe their luck and the incredible reprieve to force extra time. Suddenly, it was Colombia who had the momentum. England’s players were distraught as Southgate tried to gee them up with his team talk before extra time but his words looked lost on them.
Extra time was just prolonging the agony. Players dropping like flies, feeling the pain of cramp and despair as they tried to save enough energy for the shoot-out.
It felt like England’s chance had gone but gloriously Southgate has masterminded a new, stronger team. And now they have a wonderful chance to go even further.