Good times never seemed so good on Wednesday night as England, at last, reached their first European Championship final with a difficult win over Denmark.
Screams of joy – and relief – erupted at Wembley, and in fanzones and pub gardens across the country as the referee’s final whistle marked a moment not seen for 55 years.
England are now one historic win away from their first major silverware since 1966, and face Italy on Sunday.
Gareth Southgate said of his team: “I’m so proud of the players. It’s an incredible occasion to be a part of.”
His side were pushed into extra-time by a resolute performance from the Danes, but were home and dry when captain Harry Kane scored in the second half of extra time –sending fans wild.
There was a roar from the 60,000 fans inside the stadium at the full-time whistle, where England supporters outnumbered Danes by six-to-one.
Boris Johnson, who was at Wembley, waded in on the celebrations, tweeting: “Tonight England played their hearts out … Now to the final. Let’s bring it home.”
And in London’s Trafalgar Square fanzone, pints were launched in the air and the songs “Three Lions” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” pierced the night air.
Fans leapt onto tables and one over-exuberant fan even jumped into the fountains to celebrate.
Michael Edington, 24, from Wimbledon, said: “Just unbelievable. I did not think we would cope when we went a goal down but we kept going and came back into the game and got the win.
“I’m so immensely proud of this team for getting to the final.”
Oliver Ways, 28, from Mitcham, south London, said: “This time it’s coming home, the momentum is with us, I don’t care what anyone says.
“I’m so drunk but I don’t care – the game was just how we wanted it.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this but England are in a final!”
Matt Wright, 25, a climate researcher from Islington, said: “It’s coming home. You just have to savour every moment of this.”
Spectators huddled in a huge mass at the centre of the fan zone but were eventually shepherded out by security staff as the party spilled onto the streets.
It was not all plain sailing. Denmark struck first in the contest when Mikkel Damsgaard found success with a long-range free kick, silencing fans watching the big screen.
But the crowd didn’t let it get them down and chanted “come on England” as the Three Lions pushed on in search of an equaliser.
They didn’t have to wait long as Raheem Sterling pressured Simon Kjaer into putting the ball in his own net after a cross from Bukayo Saka.
Arms – and beers – flew into the air as England fans hugged and sang.
The second half soon beckoned and it give the fans in central London the boost they needed.
Fans remained optimistic despite chances falling for Denmark. Leon Archer, 34, from Clapham, south London, said: “Despite the chances they’ve had, I still believe.
“Just get Jack Grealish or Phil Foden on and we’ll be more creative.
“I just hope there’s no penalties, my heart won’t be able to take it.”
Both sides frantically looked for an opening, with England looking the more likely but it moved into extra-time after ending 1-1.
England continued to push forward and were finally rewarded after Sterling was fouled in the box.
Kane stepped forward to take the penalty but it was saved, however he nipped in for the rebound and scored what would turn out to be the winning goal.
Prior to the game, many fans had been bullish about England’s chances.
Peter Hopton, 40, said: “I think England will win by two goals. I’ve come from Somerset today for the game and I’ve got tickets for Wembley later. Harry Kane will get both goals.”
He was so confident of England’s chances he purchased tickets for the final before the Germany victory. He added: “It’s not going to be an easy game but I think England will make it to the final.”
Roger Robinson, 60, from Surrey, was enjoying a swift pint in central London with his three sons before they made the journey to Wembley.
He expected England to win 2-1 and make it to the final. “It’s now or never, we’ve got home advantage, haven’t conceded a goal yet and there’s a real good buzz in the squad,” he said.
And friends Martin Cranfield, 26, and Jake Thomas, 26, were making a trip to The Greyhound in Kensington to watch the match and admitted they are nervous. Mr Cranfield, a management consultant who lives in London said: “I think it’ll be close and it’s going to penalties.”
England will now play Italy in the final at Wembley on Sunday with another 60,000 fans expected at the stadium to watch the historic match.