England stand one defeat away from a potentially-humiliating World Cup exit after they were smashed 36-0 by South Africa at Stade de France.
The reigning world champions must beat Samoa in Nantes on Saturday week to have any realistic chance of staying alive after the Springboks dealt them their record World Cup defeat.
It was also the first time since 1998 that England failed to score in a Test match and, on current evidence, they will struggle to beat Samoa, so far have England fallen during the past four years.
The Webb Ellis Trophy holders were swept aside as Pool A rivals South Africa took charge through first-half tries from flanker Juan Smith and wing JP Pietersen.
Pietersen added his second try after the break, while full-back Percy Montgomery slotted 18 points from the boot and centre Francois Steyn also landed a penalty.
In World Cup terms, it eclipsed England's previous record loss - 44-21 against South Africa - in the same stadium eight years ago.
England captain Martin Corry said: 'First of all, the lads are shell-shocked. We have to dress ourselves down, give ourselves 24 hours and start focusing on Samoa.
'We gifted South Africa pretty much 20 points, and they didn't have to work particularly hard for those points. We then found ourselves playing catch-up rugby against one of the best sides in the world.
'We are not going to hit the self-destruct button. We will analyse this performance. After 24 or 48 hours, it is all about Samoa.
'We are a side playing under our full potential. We have got to keep striving to produce a performance we know we are capable of.'
England's latest dismal display followed a stuttering 28-10 success against the USA last weekend, but England head coach Brian Ashton added: 'I won't accept this was a worse performance than against America last week.
'South Africa are probably one of the top two sides in world rugby. They played extremely well for the full 80 minutes.
'We didn't help ourselves in the first half of the game. There is going to have to be a big performance next Saturday, end of story, otherwise we are going to be on our way home.
'I don't want to talk about individual players. The defeat was largely down to the way South Africa played - they were incredibly efficient in everything they did,
'The whole context of the game was totally different to last weekend. In terms of performance, we played better in some areas. If we had played like that last week, we would have scored 80 points.'
After losing fly-halves Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley to injuries, while skipper Phil Vickery missed out through suspension, England could not respond from such a sense of disarray.
And there were further injury problems as full-back Jason Robinson (hamstring) and centre Jamie Noon (knee) failed to last the distance.
Ashton now has a huge task on his hands to lift morale for the Samoa encounter, and there were boos from England's travelling support as their team trudged off.