England on Monday danced on a razor's edge to secure a Women's World Cup quarterfinals spot after emerging victorious against a spirited Nigerian side.
The contest, staged in the electric atmosphere of Brisbane's grand arena and witnessed by a roaring sea of nearly 50,000 fans, had all the makings of a classic encounter – a tenacious battle that pushed both teams to their limits.
England's Lionesses found themselves navigating the treacherous waters of extra time with only 10 players.
A red card had been unfurled for their playmaker and protagonist, Lauren James, whose earlier heroics in the 6-1 demolition of China had earned her laurels but now threatened to cast a shadow over England's ambitions.
With just three minutes to go in regulation time, the heavens seemed to frown upon James as she unleashed a needless stamp, drawing a red hue that would exile her from the upcoming clash against either Colombia or Jamaica.
A suspension loomed large, a bitter aftertaste of her previous glory.
It was a pulsating duel of wits, with Nigeria asserting their might, painting the pitch with a tapestry of chances and near-missed opportunities.
Yet, the former colonizers stood their ground, resilient and unyielding, orchestrating a defensive ballet that held the score at a steadfast 0-0 even after the sands of extra time had trickled away.
The curtains finally closed on a captivating act, and the spotlight turned to the penalty shootout – a high-stakes dance of destiny.
Georgia Stanway stepped up first for England and dared to dream, only to see her shot soar wide.
But fate had its own designs, and Desire Oparanozie, carrying Nigeria's aspirations on her shoulders, echoed Stanway's misfortune, veering wide in a mirror-image miss.
Beth England seized the moment, burying her shot in the back of the net, a symphony of redemption.
However, Nigeria's Michelle Alozie sent her attempt careening high over the bar, a misstep that sent ripples of advantage surging through the English ranks.
With the pendulum swinging their way, Chloe Kelly, who had orchestrated the winning tune in the European Championship final a year ago, took her stance and, with a serene calmness, dispatched the decisive shot, sealing England's passage into the quarterfinals.
The sidelines were a theater of emotions, a canvas of contrasting narratives.
England's coach, Sarina Wiegman, spoke of meticulous preparation, revealing the team's secret arsenal of penalty practice that had equipped her warriors for this very moment.
"We know how to do it, and we have the experience," she said.
On the opposite side, Nigeria's manager, Randy Waldrum, wore his pride and disappointment with grace, commending his squad's valiant effort despite the result.
"We had the best chances, we hit the crossbar twice in regulation play. We were a bit unlucky not to get something out of it," he said.
In a later tie, co-hosts Australia never looked in trouble and reached the quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over Denmark.
The Matildas have never made it past the quarterfinals at a World Cup but will have the chance to achieve their best result at home against either France or Morocco, who play on Tuesday.
Caitlin Foord broke the deadlock in the 29th, sprinting down the left to conclude a fantastic counter-attack for Australia.
Hayley Raso then smashed the ball into the net in the 71st to seal their spot in the quarters.
But the big crowd at the Stadium Australia was again euphoric when top star Sam Kerr came on for her first appearance at her home World Cup, which Australia is co-hosting with New Zealand.
Kerr was forced to sit out during the group stage due to a calf injury picked on the eve of the tournament.
Denmark had the better of the possession and territory, especially in the first half, but struggled to be dangerous in front of the goal for all their dominance.