Just 130 days after breaking English hearts in Moscow, Zlatko Dalic’s men looked set to prove the scourge of the Three Lions once more as Andrej Kramaric’s deflected effort left them staring down the barrel of relegation.
But a stirring comeback from Gareth Southgate’s side brought a memorable year to a fitting conclusion, with substitute Jesse Lingard scoring and clearing off the line before captain Kane secured a late 2-1 win which sees them top Group A4 ahead of Spain.
Baddiel & Skinner’s ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ rang around Wembley after a victory that condemned Croatia to relegation - the icing on the cake as England brought down the curtain on a year which saw them re-engage with the public and restore pride.
For a long time it had looked like this match would go the same way as Moscow. England were on top but failed to convert a glut of first-half chances, with Leicester flop Kramaric capitalising on poor defending before firing a shot in off Eric Dier.
Southgate’s side struggled to recover from that sucker punch, but Lingard turned home in the 78th minute to set up a grandstand finish.
The substitute stopped Domagoj Vida’s header on the line, with Kane turning home Ben Chilwell’s free-kick five minutes from time to send Wembley wild and secure England a shot at silverware in Portugal next summer.