England ultimately fell to an eighth straight defeat to New Zealand, 19-6, but Martin Johnson's embattled team succeeded in restoring some red rose pride at the end of an otherwise miserable autumn.
For the best part of an hour, England stood toe to toe with the All Blacks, almost unrecognisable from the cowering, anxious team that scraped to victory over Argentina seven days ago.
Two penalties from Jonny Wilkinson had carried England into the break level at 6-6, thanks partly to two simple misses from All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter.
In the final analysis, England did not have the attacking composure to push New Zealand right to the limit and the All Blacks sealed victory in the second half, with Jimmy Cowan’s well-worked try in the left corner proving the difference.
England’s attacking failings remain a concern, with only one try in three Tests and no points again after the interval - but this was the performance Johnson had demanded, packed with fight, industry and endeavour.
England’s best-laid plans had to be redrawn after barely two minutes when Joe Worsley, recalled for his tenacious defensive work, limped out of the action.
But it did nothing to dilute England’s physical approach as Johnson’s men started with an edge and a dynamism that was so woefully lacking against Argentina.
Past experiences have proven the only way to beat New Zealand is to match them for muscle and right from the kick-off England were in the face of the All Blacks.
Lewis Moody chased tirelessly to put Carter under pressure and this week he was not a lone operator, with James Haskell, Matt Banahan and Simon Shaw a willing supporting cast.