England limped their way to a second-round clash with Ecuador as they drew 2-2 with Sweden, while Michael Owen's World Cup was left hanging in the balance.
Owen's long-awaited reunion with Wayne Rooney lasted less than a minute after the 26-year-old Newcastle striker twisted his knee laying off a ball and was stretchered away in agony.
Joe Cole's first-half piledriver and substitute Steven Gerrard's late header were enough to ensure their progression, although Marcus Allback and Henrik Larsson at the death claimed equalisers to deny England victory over Sweden yet again.
But the Scandinavians twice hit the bar at 1-1 as Sven-Goran Eriksson's men capitulated alarmingly.
Owen will have a scan tomorrow which could determine his future participation, but Eriksson headed for the dressing room on the final whistle knowing his decision to take only four strikers to Germany will be dissected once again.
Peter Crouch, perhaps aggrieved to be consigned to the bench in the first place, emerged to partner Rooney as a clearly shell-shocked England struggled to come to terms with the blow of losing their leading scorer.
Frank Lampard twice tested keeper Andreas Isaksson from distance, although not to any great degree, and with Eriksson's men trying to regroup, the Swedes forced a series of set-pieces which were all repelled.
However, with Owen Hargreaves having at last been given a chance to show what he can do in central midfield and Rooney and Joe Cole providing fresh impetus, England began to impose themselves.
Teddy Lucic had to get in an important block to deny Rooney after he had plucked David Beckham's 25th-minute long ball out of the air, but the opening goal arrived in spectacular style nine minutes later.
The ball was cleared to Joe Cole 30 yards out and he controlled it on his chest before sending a delicious dipping volley over the despairing Isaksson.
But Sweden were back in it within five minutes of the restart when Allback eluded David Beckham to glance home a Tobias Linderoth corner.
It might have been worse four minutes later had Paul Robinson not tipped a Larsson header on to the bar amid claims for handball against Jamie Carragher.
Mellberg fired against the bar on 59 minutes as England once again failed to defend a corner, and Gerrard - on for Rooney - had to hack a Kim Kallstrom shot off the line 12 minutes later.
Eriksson's side thought they had won it through Gerrard's 85th-minute header, but Larsson's 90th-minute strike ended their celebrations.