After decades stewing on his Euro 96 semi-final miss against Germany, Gareth Southgate has spent recent months trying to improve their chances in Russia if it went all the way.
Things looked set to go pear-shaped when Jordan Henderson's penalty was saved, only for Mateus Uribe's spot-kick to rattle the bar and goalkeeper Pickford to deny Carlos Bacca.
Eric Dier kept his composure in the Spartak Stadium cauldron, propelling the Three Lions to a famous 4-3 shootout win after it ended 1-1 after 90 minutes and extra time.
Sweden now await in a mouth-watering Samara quarter-final on Saturday, which England approach buoyed by a display of character and coolness which belied this group's tender years.
Things should not have got this far. England edged the first half and Colombia should have been reduced to 10 men after Wilmar Barrios headbutted Henderson, yet he inexplicably only received a booking from referee Mark Geiger.
The group managed to control their emotions, even when Raheem Sterling was barged by a Colombia coach, and captain Harry Kane epitomised their strength of character by firing home from the spot after minutes of gamesmanship.
But England never do things the easy way. Pickford's incredible one-handed save looked to put Southgate's men through only for Yerry Mina to jump high at a corner to head home three minutes into stoppage time.
Extra-time came and went as the match went to penalties, where the Three Lions won the shootout and their first knockout match since 2006.