A Wayne Rooney goal on his belated entry to Euro 2012 earned England a 1-0 win over Ukraine on Tuesday that sent them into the quarter-finals and eliminated the unlucky co-hosts who were controversially denied an equalizer.
Rooney, suspended for the first two matches, scored three minutes into the second half when captain Steven Gerrard's deflected right-wing cross deceived goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and left the returning striker with an easy header.
England finished as Group D winners with seven points and will play Italy in Kiev on Sunday. France's 2-0 defeat by Sweden left them second on four points and facing holders Spain.
However, England's victory only came after Ukraine, needing a win to go through, were desperately close to leveling the scores just past the hour mark when Marco Devic's shot was half-saved by Joe Hart then hacked off the line by John Terry.
Ukraine's players and crowd screamed goal but the fifth official decided otherwise and the hosts were left fuming after television replays suggested the ball may have crossed the line.
The additional assistant referee, introduced to try to deal with close goal-line decisions, did not indicate a goal to the referee, to the fury of Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin.
"We scored a clean goal in the 63rd minute as the ball crossed the goal line by over a meter," he said. "We had rotten luck tonight because the ball was not willing to go into the goal and England were lucky to score."
"What can I say? There are five refs on the pitch and the ball was... over the line. Why do we need five refs then? Devic scored a goal and I don't know why it wasn't allowed."
For the second major tournament England, who were on the wrong side of a more clear-cut decision against Germany in the 2010 World Cup, were involved in an incident that will increase the pressure for the introduction of goal-line technology.
Midfielder Gerrard reckoned England deserved some luck.
"To be successful in these tournaments, with the quality of teams you have, you need a bit of luck along the way," he said. "Two years ago with Frank Lampard's goal it didn't go our way... if you keep fighting and stick at it you earn that bit of luck."
Ukraine started without their record scorer Andriy Shevchenko who was on the bench due to a knee injury but that did not stop them dominating the first half.
They had far more possession and laid siege to England's goal for long periods with their first attempt coming after seven minutes when Denys Garmash fired over from long range.
Terry blocked an Evhen Konoplyanka shot that was heading goalwards after 18 minutes and Ukraine skipper Anatoly Tymoshchuk should have done better with the rebound which he also fired over.
A mistake by Ashley Young after 22 minutes allowed Oleh Gusyev to test Hart and the England keeper had to make another smart save eight minutes later, getting down to a shot from Andriy Yarmolenko.
England's first attempt at goal came after 28 minutes when Rooney headed a Young cross wide with only Pyatov to beat.
Rooney made amends after the break though with his simple back post header to put England in front and, having survived the goal-line incident, they had Hart to thank for a fine save to keep out a fierce long-range Konoplyanka strike.
"We've won the group and have a big game against Italy now,@ said Hart. "We've got to go there (Kiev) believing in ourselves. There's no point in playing them if we don't think we can beat them and move forward in this competition."
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Ken Ferris)