Captain James Ward-Prowse ruined Philipp Hofmann’s 22nd birthday as England Under-21s twice came from behind to beat their counterparts from Germany 3-2.
The Kaiserslautern striker had helped himself to a well-taken double either side of Jesse Lingard’s equaliser and half-time, but ended up on the losing side in a thrilling encounter in front of a crowd of 30,178 at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
Gareth Southgate’s men snatched victory with a rousing finish as Norwich’s Nathan Redmond levelled 10 minutes from time and then saw Southampton’s Ward-Prowse settle it two minutes later.
Southgate, back at the stadium at which he had played with such distinction before taking over the managerial reins from Steve McClaren, was looking for a stern test ahead of this summer’s European Under-21 Championship finals in the Czech Republic, for which both sides have qualified.
He got just that as the visitors, with Liverpool’s Emre Can and captain Moritz Leitner orchestrating from the middle of the park, starting confidently and forcing their way in front with just 15 minutes gone.
Full-back Christian Gunter and midfielder Amin Younes combined well down the left and when the ball reached Hofmann in the middle, he controlled and swivelled smartly to fire home.
Burnley striker Danny Ings had forced a fine 33rd-minute save form keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, before Lingard converted Carl Jenkinson’s cross with aplomb to level shortly after.
However, Germany restored their lead within five minutes of the restart when Hofmann slid in to meet substitute Serge Gnabry’s inviting cross.
Ings smashed a long-range effort over two minutes later, but the home side drew level with 10 minutes remaining when substitute Alex Pritchard fed Redmond and his shot flew in with a slight deflection.
There was better to come when Ward-Prowse kept a cool head when given a chance to win it from 12 yards and made no mistake.