As seismic sporting shocks go, Wednesday saw one of the biggest in years.
Roger Federer, tennis' 20-time major-winning great, squandered a two-set lead and a match point to lose to Kevin Anderson in his Wimbledon quarter-final.
Federer's upset was a preview to the main event, it turned out. At Luzhniki Stadium, Croatia looked finished, a spent force, heading forlornly for the weird, sullen occasion that is the World Cup's third-place play-off. And although they were hardly playing tournament favourites in England, their fightback was worthy of sharing a day with Anderson's extraordinary tale.
This was a first semi-final at any event for England since 1996; for Croatia, it was their first foray into the last four since the fabled team of World Cup 1998. They have never been to a final at all. History was always going to be made in Moscow, which is just the way a game of this magnitude should be.
This was Croatia's best side since that Davor Suker vintage, a second 'golden generation' who humbled Argentina in the group stage, who battled from a goal down to see off Denmark and hosts Russia in the knockouts to reach this point. They have survived turmoil surrounding their Football Association, mounting expectations and two penalty shoot-outs. Theirs is an uncommon, unbreakable spirit.
It looked as though Gareth Southgate's motley crew of malcontents would be one step too far. Again, their goal came from a set-piece, for the ninth time at these finals. Kieran Trippier, not even a Tottenham regular until last season, further underlined the burgeoning comparisons with former England captain David Beckham by stroking home the Three Lions' first direct free-kick goal at a World Cup since Beckham himself in 2006.
Croatia had possession, as expected; Luka Modric was the man they looked to for inspiration, as expected. But a wild shot from Sime Vrsaljko, passed fit for this match late on, summed up a first half in which they looked anxious and bereft of ideas.
England were not quite at match point, but it felt as though the headlines were already being written when Croatia struck. Vrsaljko, showing why he was rushed back into the team after getting injured against Russia, bent a fine cross in from the right that Ivan Perisic met with a boot, steering the ball into the net despite Kyle Walker's best efforts.
The momentum shift was incredible. Modric and Ivan Rakitic suddenly began to control the middle, the ball coming back time and again against an England back three who looked frozen with anxiety in the bright Luzhniki lights, the men ahead of them unable to keep possession long enough to let them breathe.
Perisic, now level with Suker on four World Cup goals, later hit the base of the post, Harry Kane missed a header, and chances came and went for John Stones and Mario Mandzukic in extra time. Then, England's defence froze again. A simple header from Perisic, a momentary lapse from Stones, and Mandzukic had fired Croatia into the final for a chance to avenge their 1998 exit at the hands of France.
England defied expectation and united a fractured nation in reaching this stage, and Southgate must take enormous credit for that. But this Croatia, like Kevin Anderson in London hours earlier, refuse to accept they can be beaten. The greatest achievement in their short football history is secure, the pinnacle of the game just 90 minutes away.
|Saints pull away for blowout victory over Eagles, extend winning streak to nine|
|Martinez laments loss of control by Belgium|
|Logano claims first NASCAR Cup championship|
|Luis Enrique delighted with attitude of Spain´s squad|
|Stevens tells Celtics to get ´tougher´|
|Griezmann: Being Messi´s lieutenant played a part in rejecting Barcelona|
|Curry proud of how Warriors handled Green-Durant incident|
|Courtois: Belgium thought Nations League job was done|
|Howell ends 11-year title drought to deny record-breaking Rodgers|
|Robben dismisses Bayern title talk|
|Huge blow for Redskins as QB Smith breaks tibia and fibula|
|Switzerland 5 Belgium 2: Seferovic treble crowns incredible comeback|
|Titans DC Pees taken to hospital during Colts game|
|Spain 1 Bosnia-Herzegovina 0: Debutant Mendez spares Morata´s blushes|
|Peterson goes sixth on rushing touchdowns list|
|Titans QB Mariota suffers elbow injury|
|Djokovic hails much-improved Zverev|
|Arnautovic refuses to discuss West Ham future after Austria win|
|Redskins QB Smith carted off after gruesome ankle injury|
|Jaguars shut down Jalen Ramsey trade rumours|
|Classy Zverev revels in victory, hails defeated Djokovic|
|Forget the Nations League was ever invented, jokes Northern Ireland boss O´Neill|
|Magnificent Zverev claims ATP Finals title|
|Mahrez double fires Algeria to 2019 AFCON|
|Mbappe hoping for French winner of Ballon d´Or|
|Northern Ireland 1 Austria 2: Last-gasp winner denies hosts maiden Nations League point|
|Teenager admits assaulting Wales great Thomas|
|Browns deny Condoleezza Rice is candidate for head coaching job|
|Koeman: Netherlands not favourites for Germany clash|
|Dalic ´not sad´ but blames fatigue for Croatia relegation|
|Proud Southgate hails England hero Kane as world´s best goalscorer|
|Last-gasp Exeter penalty try shatters Bristol|
|Mbappe dismisses talk of Cavani-Neymar rift|
|Keita will do ´great things´ for Liverpool – Mane|
|Mourinho needs time to fix Manchester United - Veron|
|Southgate sees progress as England reward loyal support|
|Miller hungry to ´knock out a Brit´ after Dinu demolition|
|Yasir, Hasan put Pakistan in control with five-wicket hauls|
|England´s resilience delights Kane as Three Lions secure Nations League Finals spot|
|Kane proves Nations League importance to England in Wembley decider|
|Muller, Hummels still important for Germany, says Low|
|Tevez in line for start in Copa Libertadores final second leg|
|England 2 Croatia 1: Kane able to secure Nations League Finals spot|
|It doesn´t sound real - Molinari stunned by 2018 exploits|
|Wales legend Thomas victim of alleged homophobic attack|
|Marquez crashes again as Dovizioso wins rain-interrupted Valencia GP|
|Warriors owner denies taking sides following Green-Durant spat|
|Alisson can become a global great, says Dida|
|The Sunday Seven - 7 Key Opta facts for NFL Week 11|
|Teen driver ´fine´ after sustaining spinal fracture in F3 crash|
|Willett wins first title since Masters triumph, Molinari tops Race to Dubai standings|
|Southgate overcomes ´stigma´ of being sacked to thrive with England|
|Anthony to Lakers ´not a question for myself´, says LeBron James|
|Warriors´ Stephen Curry staying ´cautious´ with injury recovery|
|Gunter hopes Bale can help family jet in to witness Wales record|
|Root pleased to practice what he preached|
|Tianjin Quanjian threaten action after Modeste returns to Cologne|
|I had to stop Kemba getting 70! – Jimmy Butler reflects on dramatic game-winner|
|Molinari wins Race to Dubai|
|Rooney: Some ex-players can´t come to terms with England doing well|
|In a spin: England´s win against Sri Lanka sets new record|
|Ogier wins sixth straight WRC title|
|Rogic, Kruse to miss Socceroos´ Lebanon friendly|
|Joerger has Kings´ ´full support´, says GM Divac|
|England seal series win over Sri Lanka|
|Butler´s heroics spoil Walker´s 60-point game as 76ers beat Hornets|
|He´s an honest guy – Djokovic defends Zverev after Finals controversy|
|Bonucci boos a ´mistake´ by fans, says Mancinima|
|Ronaldo still part of Portugal squad – Santos|
|Santos satisfied as Portugal reach Nations League Finals|