A rejuvenated France ran up a 16-point lead in the first half and held on to beat an error-prone England 19-12 at Eden Park on Saturday and set up a World Cup semi-final against Wales.
Putting aside four weeks of squad unrest and stuttering form, the French scored tries through Vincent Clerc and Maxime Médard to redeem themselves after last week's loss to Tonga and gain revenge on the English for semi-final defeats at the last two World Cups.
"We are very happy," said scrumhalf Dimitri Yachvili. "It's much easier to play when we have pressure on the line so big congratulations to our pack.
"It's like we have got revenge on ourselves. We showed very good team spirit today, we couldn't afford to play like we did last week against Tonga."
England, the 2003 champions and runners-up at the last World Cup, conspired in their own downfall with ill-discipline among their forwards and handling errors in the backs costing them dear as they chased the game.
Fullback Ben Foden and winger Mark Cueto did score tries after half time but they proved too little, too late as the English lost to France for the first time in a knockout match at the World Cup.
"We are just thoroughly disappointed," said England skipper Lewis Moody.
"We stuck at it in the second half and we had some opportunities but we weren't good enough today. Thoroughly disappointed for the squad and the fans but credit to France, they came out and performed when they needed to."
The French will return to Eden Park next Saturday to take on Wales, who beat Ireland 22-10 in the day's first quarter-final, with a place in the final at stake.
Yachvili had already given the French a 6-0 lead with two penalties when Clerc struck in the 22nd minute to score only the second try England had given up in the tournament.
The French pack stole England's ball at the line-out, Morgan Parra ran a loop in midfield before feeding Clerc, who crashed through the tackles of Ben Youngs and Foden to touch down for his sixth try of the tournament.
The second try eight minutes later also stemmed from good work from the French pack with captain Thierry Dusautoir charging through the middle of the England defence.
The white-shirted defenders looked to have everything covered when the ball went along the French backline until Alexis Palisson flung the ball inside from his wing and Médard raced through a big gap to score.
Yachvili failed to convert either try but the French were now 16-0 up and charged with self confidence.
England pressed for a score before the break but two promising attacks fizzled out close to the line because of handling errors from wingers Chris Ashton and Cueto.
England finally breached the French line 15 minutes into the second half when Foden weaved his way through three defenders and Jonny Wilkinson added the extra points to reduce the deficit to 16-7.
Replacement Francois Trinh-Duc had come on at flyhalf moments before, however, and his kicking from hand kept England trapped inside their own half for much of the remaining 25 minutes.
Trinh-Duc extended the French lead with a drop goal after a long siege of the England line in the 72nd minute but the English struck back five minutes later when Cueto crossed the try line after a barnstorming run from Matt Banahan.
Toby Flood missed the conversion, however, and England were unable to find another try to level up the scores, leaving the French in the crowd of 49,105 to celebrate a famous victory.
"We are very, very proud to have beaten this England team," Yachvili added. "We will enjoy this and on Monday, we will start preparing to win the semi-final."