Ten-man England ground out a precious 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Austria in Manchester on Saturday despite a red card for captain David Beckham.
Frank Lampard converted a 25th minute penalty to put England's Group Six campaign back on track after last month's humiliating 1-0 defeat by Northern Ireland, but there was controversy on the hour-mark.
Beckham, famously red-carded at the 1998 World Cup against Argentina, became the first England player to be sent off twice with a second yellow at Old Trafford after what looked like a dive by Andreas Ibertsberger following a booking for elbowing the same Austrian midfielder minutes earlier.
England held on for a victory which means they can top the group by beating leaders Poland in Wednesday's final qualifier.
They would also qualify later on Saturday as one of the two best runners-up if the Netherlands beat the Czech Republic away in Group One.
Though Beckham's absence through suspension on Wednesday will be a blow, England will have striker Wayne Rooney back from suspension and can count on Shaun Wright-Phillips as a livewire midfield replacement.
Changes will also be expected in central defence, where John Terry put in an impressive performance.
Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand, initially dropped by manager Sven-Goran Eriksson after some below-par performances, had to replace Sol Campbell following a second-half injury.
England created plenty of chances but will need to be more clinical in their finishing against the Poles, while their clean sheet was offset by a shot against their cross bar which could have turned the game.
Austria, playing with a five-man midfield and Roland Linz as a lone striker, were determined to make England work hard for their chances. But the balance of power soon swung the hosts' way.
Michael Owen had a close-range header blocked from a corner and was only denied a one-on-one with keeper Juergen Macho by a superb last-ditch tackle from Paul Scharner.
The Austrian defender was less fortunate a few minutes later when towering England striker Peter Crouch knocked the ball down and Scharner tugged Owen back as he tried to swivel round.
Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo pointed to the spot and Lampard, who has replaced Beckham as penalty-taker after three consecutive misses by the captain, steered his shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
England had another penalty appeal turned down before the break after Owen was felled by Andreas Dober's challenge.
Lampard skewed a stoppage-time shot wide in a strong finish to a half in which Austria's sole chance was a stinging 30-metre shot from midfielder Markus Kiesenebner, tipped over by Paul Robinson.
However, the visitors came out a lot sharper for the second half and suddenly it was Luke Young and Campbell who were making the last-ditch interceptions.
Seconds after Macho caught a Crouch header, Linz hit the crossbar after Terry missed a headed interception.
Worse was to come for England with Beckham's dismissal though, unlike his exit in France, he walked off to a standing ovation from the 65,000 crowd.
Eriksson immediately stiffened his side by bringing on Ledley King as a defensive midfielder for the more creative Joe Cole. Minutes later, Ferdinand arrived on his home pitch.
England soaked up the pressure and could even have snatched a second at the very end after Lampard struck a left-foot shot which Macho turned around for a corner.
Eriksson was upbeat after the match. "In the second half we defended brilliantly, I don't think they had a chance," he told the BBC.
"I thought we played very well in the first half and when it was 11 v 11. Then we suffered but we did it together like a real team."