England emerged unscathed and in control of their own World Cup destiny from their most testing night of the qualifying campaign in Kiev.
It was not a performance to change the perception of some lean years ahead but it was good enough to subdue Ukraine, the greatest threat to the top spot England still hold in the group.
And with the problems with which manager Roy Hodgson had to contend going into the game, that will surely be considered mission accomplished.
Hodgson knows that next month’s Wembley double-header against first Montenegro and finally Poland – always it seems to be Poland – offer his team the chance to book their place in Brazil.
Two wins put England out of reach but the distance between Hodgson’s squad and the major contenders next summer remains serious and substantial.
Everything we are seeing at the moment suggests it will be a token appearance.
The evidence continues to point to an England team chugging along but not one which can carry a meaningful challenge into the latter stages of an international tournament.
With what he has to work with, however, Hodgson should be given credit for negotiating a path through a fixture which way back at the start of the qualifiers screamed its threat.
It was a game which set off like a thrilling express train but clattered towards the final whistle like Steptoe’s cart. The football drifted into a rag and bone quality too but that was not for England to fret over; this was a night for Ukraine to seize control as they look ahead to a finale with Poland and San Marino.
Much of their frustration was delivered to them by the solidity of England’s organisation, a Hodgson speciality, and the excellence of key figures in the watchful display – especially centre-backs Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka, left-back Ashley Cole and captain Steven Gerrard.
He will get precious little praise for it because James Milner seems to have become the Emile Heskey of this era, a footballer whose inclusion induces groans from supporters. But with his well-documented personnel shortages dictating Hodgson’s hand, Milner’s selection achieved exactly what was required.
At the other end of the pitch, though, England’s problems were writ large with the lack of craft and poor decision-making rendering their attacking ambitions all but redundant. On a night when Theo Walcott needed to prove he has found an end product, he instead raised fresh doubts.
Neither could Jack Wilshere put a foot right while Frank Lampard’s 100th cap was remarkable for that celebratory stat alone. Rickie Lambert, meanwhile, laboured like the willing shire horse he is and has done enough to remain bridled for the fresh fields England must conquer in the coming weeks and months.
To be fair to Walcott, his electric opening to the game, when his principle weapon – pace – took him beyond 34-year-old full-back Vyacheslav Shevchuk and to within inches of an early goal, his contribution became restrained as he came deeper to help Kyle Walker.
Ukraine were restricted to paltry rations in front of Joe Hart that would see them enjoy only one clear chance, a header fluffed by full-back Artem Fedetskiy when he had England at his mercy.
Instead it was England who might have won it in added time when Lampard’s unerring instinct for opportunity saw him sneak on to a long throw as it bounced across Ukraine’s defence only to snap his header wide.
That would have been more than England deserved. But their right to finish on top of this group is now firmly in their hands.
Ukraine: Pyatov, Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Kucher, Shevchuk, Stepanenko, Edmar, Gusev (Bezus 68), Yarmolenko (Khomchenovskiy 90), Konoplianka, Zozulya (Seleznyov 90). Subs not used: Koval, Dedechko, Tymoschuk, Mandzyuk, Grechyshkin, Morozyuk, Rakitskiy, Devic, Khudzamov.
England: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole, Lampard, Gerrard, Wilshere (Young 68), Walcott (Cleverley 89), Lambert, Milner. Subs not used: Ruddy, Smalling, Baines, Caulker, Carrick, Barkley, Defoe, Sterling, Townsend, Forster.
Pedro Proenca (Portugal). Att: 69,890.