Gareth Southgate publicly staked his reputation on Harry Maguire ahead of kick-off against Germany and the England manager was not repaid despite his players rallying to produce a stunning comeback in a 3-3 thriller at Wembley.
The Manchester United captain was guilty of key mistakes leading to both Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz scoring before his team-mates fought back through finishes from Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and a Harry Kane penalty.
It was the required response from a team which appeared to be sleepwalking into a World Cup having last week been relegated in their UEFA Nations League group, and are now six games without a win - the longest such run in their history. The Wembley crowd was at its lowest ebb with a little under 20 minutes to play and fans were forced to listen to their German counterparts ironically sing ‘It’s Coming Home’.
But the tide turned. Shaw crashed home a Reece James cross - reminiscent of his European Championship final goal against Italy - to lift the crowd before substitute pair Bukayo Saka and Mount linked up to produce a stunning equaliser just minutes later, the Chelsea midfielder curling home a fine shot from 20 yards.
England thought they won it when Nico Schlotterbeck wiped out Jude Bellingham in the area and Kane thumped home an unstoppable penalty - his 51st England goal, three off Wayne Rooney’s all-time record - with eight minutes to play. Unfortunately, Nick Pope spilled a Serge Gnabry effort to allow Havertz to equalise shortly afterwards for a share of the spoils.
However, despite the late blow, this is the boost of morale the squad, staff and supporters needed from the final run out before the World Cup.
The team which started the game appeared to be the best indication yet of the one Southgate is expected to pick for England’s opener against Iran on November 21.
Maguire will remain a huge talking point, despite Southgate’s public backing, and will need more games for United before the flight out to Qatar. Whether he will get them remains another concern.
The decision to leave AC Milan's in-form defender Fikayo Tomori out of the matchday squad has led to further criticism of Southgate and he can expect more in the coming weeks.
There are now concerns over Pope, who appeared to have the role as Jordan Pickford’s first understudy sewn up before a shaky display tonight, potentially leaving the door open for Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale.
Eric Dier will never be more confident of starting the first group game after back-to-back starts, while Shaw, Saka and Mount could have done little more to stake a claim for a starting spot. Phil Foden could be looking over his shoulder.
Overall, though, England changed the narrative. There were more positives and negatives from the final warm-up game before a major tournament, and that was the order of the day in what was a dead-rubber match.
The performance has breathed some life - and refreshed some hope - into what was looking increasingly like a stale England team.