England reached the World Cup quarter-finals at Eden Park on Saturday, but not before battling Scotland gave them a huge scare only to lose 16-12 to a Chris Ashton try with three minutes to go.
Needing to win by over seven points to reach the last eight, and all but eliminate England, Scotland were 12-3 ahead with 24 minutes to go and in sight of glory.
But struggling Jonny Wilkinson found his kicking form late in the match to deny what would have been a famous victory, sending over a penalty and a drop to put his side crucially within the seven-points margin before Ashton supplied the coup de grace.
Scotland picked up a bonus point, just keeping alive their hopes but need a near-miracle by Georgia beating Argentina by more than seven points on Sunday.
England finished the pool stages unbeaten and move on to a quarter-final against Six Nations rivals France, whom they beat in the semi-finals in Paris four years ago.
Scotland coach Andy Robinson, who formerly coached England, brought in six new players with the captaincy reverting to lock Alastair Kellock, who was dropped for the Argentina game.
England showed three changes to the side that overwhelmed Romania 67-3 in their last match with Courtney Lawes back at lock after serving a two-match ban for kneeing an opponent in the head.
Playing in blustery, wet conditions in front of a 60,000 capacity crowd at Eden Park, two early handling errors put Scotland on the back foot, but the underdogs showed their intentions by running the ball from inside their own 22.
Scottish fly-half Ruaridh Jackson came off with a pulled hamstring after five minutes and was replaced by Dan Parks who immediately sent a probing grubber kick into the England 22.
Martin Johnson’s men gave away a penalty at a scrum in trying to work a way clear and full-back Chris Paterson nailed the opening score from near the touchline.
Eight minutes later Parks made it 6-0 to the Scots with referee Craig Joubert needing a video referral to adjudge if his long-range effort had squeezed over the crossbar.
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson narrowly missed three penalties in quick succession as his World Cup kicking woes continued, but he finally sent one between the posts after 34 minutes when Scotland were penalised at a ruck.
Scotland piled on the pressure yards short of the English line as the half drew to a close and gladly settled for a Parks drop-goal to turn at 9-3 ahead needing just another three-pointer to reach the last eight.
But it was England who started the stronger when they returned, Delon Armitage being bundled into touch five yards from the line after a 30-meter dash down the left wing.
Centre Mike Tindall then probed down the right side as the Scots defence held firm and a minute later Wilkinson miscued a drop-kick attempt wide from directly in front of the posts.
Scotland finally lifted the siege with an interception by replacement centre Nick de Luca and it was the same player who should have scored seconds later but he knocked on from Simon Danielli’s chip kick with the line at his mercy.
Scotland kept up the pressure and when the English scrum was penalised Paterson kept his nerve to put the Scots 12-3 ahead with 24 minutes to go.
That nine-point lead lasted only a minute however as Wilkinson finally found his range with a huge drop kick.
Another Wilkinson drop attempt was charged down and almost led to a Scottish try, but immediately after he landed a crucial penalty from out wide to bring England back to 12-9.
Scotland flung all they had into the last 10 minutes, but they were pinned back by the England scrum and Ashton scored the only try of the game with three minutes to go. Toby Flood converted.