Captain Steven Gerrard admitted he felt almost overwhelming relief when he scored England's second goal in the 2-0 win over Poland.
The victory sealed England's place in the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, but it was a nervous night for the players, the fans at Wembley and the millions watching on television around the country.
Wayne Rooney put England in front in the first half but Poland missed some excellent chances to equalise, and pressed hard in the second half, roared on by 18,000 passionate fans of their own.
But Gerrard ended the nerves and the match with a fine goal two minutes from time.
"It was a relief for everyone," Gerrard said. "At 1-0 it was very nervous, tense and edgy, you are always thinking that one mistake and you could be in trouble.
"I got a bit of a break with the goal, but when I saw it in the back of the net it was a tremendous feeling. It is a feeling difficult to put into words because I am on such a high.
"I have had some wonderful nights as Liverpool captain and I remember the night when Roy phoned me to tell me I was going to be the permanent captain. The feeling I got when that goal went in tonight, that feeling was maxed."
Gerrard says the players must now stay "grounded" as they prepare for Brazil 2014, and he hopes fans stay realistic about their prospects.
"The opportunity is there. I have said all week there is a good confidence and belief in the group, but at the same time we are going to keep ourselves grounded and stay humble," he said.
"It is important now that it does not flip and everyone thinks we are going to go and win the World Cup, that we are favourites and everyone gets carried away.
"What is important is we have shown everyone we are a good team. We have not felt sorry for ourselves when we have had criticism, we have rolled ourselves up, tried to work hard and put it right.
"It is a great feeling to be in Brazil and hopefully we can go in with a little less pressure on ourselves and surprise a few."
Gerrard says Rooney will be pivotal to their prospects of going a long way in Brazil.
The Manchester United striker has now scored nine goals from his last 10 England matches and Gerrard said: "I have said all along that if we are going to be successful in this team, then Wayne Rooney is key.
"When you go into big competitions, you need strikers to get you important goals and that is why Wayne Rooney is so important for this country - if we are going to do well at the tournament it will be because Wayne Rooney is in good form."