England's tortured journey to the Euro 2008 finals ended in the mud at a rain-sodden Wembley on Wednesday when Steve McClaren's men crashed out 3-2 to Croatia.
While England were left with the heartache of missing out on a European championships for the first time since 1984 there was last minute qualification joy for Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Turkey.
This quartet grabbed the remaining places on offer for next year's finals on a nerve-jangling final night of qualifying to join the Czech Republic, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Holland, Poland, Romania, Spain, and co-hosts Austria and Switzerland.
Nowhere was the tension more palpable than at Wembley.
After Israel had given England a lifeline by beating Russia at the weekend a point was all they needed to pip the Russians to second spot in Group E, but a desperate goalkeeping blunder and a talented Croatian side proved their undoing.
McClaren's gamble on calling up Scott Carson for his first full cap backfired badly as the Liverpool keeper gifted Niko Kranjcar a goal after only seven minutes.
Ivica Olic then doubled Croatia's lead and despite a fightback that yielded a Frank Lampard penalty and an equaliser from Peter Crouch, England could have little complaint about the final outcome.
McClaren, asked if this spelled the end of the road for him as England manager, said: "No, I won't (resign).
"I understand the question but I'm not going to discuss my future so soon after a huge disappointment. It has been a massive let down for the nation and we have to reflect on it.
"Tonight it is case of analysing that roller coaster game and taking in the huge disappointment that we won't be there next summer."
He added: "I said judge me over the 12 games and we deserve to be where we have finished," he said. "We don't deserve to have qualified. That is my job and I accept the responsibility.
"We feel exactly the same (as the fans), believe you me, we know how they are feeling. You should see the dressing room, they are so disappointed to have let so many people down."
Over in Oporto a goalless draw against Finland was enough for Portugal, hosts and beaten finalists at Euro 2004, to book their ticket to the 2008 finals, to the delight of Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's true we wanted a win here but all we needed was a draw and the important thing is that we've qualified for the Euro."
Manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, back in the dugout after a three-match suspension, added: "We had a fair number of players injured, that always complicates matters a little, but we've qualified and that's the main thing.
"We now have lots of work to do to improve."
Sweden ensured their presence at next year's finals with a 2-1 win over Latvia which put them through as runners up behind Group F winners Spain, 1-0 winners over Northern Ireland in Las Palmas.
Norway mauled Malta 4-1 but it wasn't enough to prevent Turkey bagging the runners-up spot behind Greece in Group C after Fatih Terim's men defeated Bosnia 1-0.
The draw for the group stages at next year's finals will be made at UEFA's headquarters in Luzern, Switzerland, on December 2.