England moved to the top of Group B after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Wales on Friday thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Daniel Sturridge at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, France.
Gareth Bale had given the Dragons the lead by scoring his second goal from a free-kick in as many matches. Second-half substitute Jamie Vardy made his presence felt almost instantly to help England begin an attacking surge that finished with Sturridge's heroics.
Here's a look at the updated Group B table heading into the final fixtures:
|UEFA Euro 2016: Group B Standings|
Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail noted England head coach Roy Hodgson declined to exchange verbal jabs with Wales players, including Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, leading into the match after they pointed out the English squad seemed to lack passion.
"Talk is talk; action on the field is action on the field," Hodgson said. "It surprises me that people are focusing on the talking. If we really took it seriously, thinking about what people in the other team are saying, and allowed it to affect our concentration, we'd be ashamed of ourselves."
Disaster nearly struck the Dragons inside the opening 15 seconds as a failed clearance attempt by captain Ashley Williams almost allowed Harry Kane to get an immediate look at goal. The defender recovered in time to avert the danger, though.
After that initial heart-stopping moment for the Welsh supporters, it was an otherwise tame opening 30 minutes. Neither side could generate much attacking pressure, and the pre-match remarks by Wales didn't appear to have any impact on the English players' approach.
The Three Lions tried picking up the pace in the latter stages of the first half. They shouted for a penalty call after the ball bounced off Ben Davies' hand following an aerial duel in the box with Kane, but referee Felix Brych quickly dismissed the appeals.
Scott Wilson of the Northern Echo felt a call should have been made:
England continued to turn up the pressure and nearly found the net off a corner kick as Chris Smalling did well to find some space in the box. His ensuing header floated just wide of the post, though.
Then, in the final moments of a half where they controlled just 36 per cent of possession, Wales broke the deadlock in a fortuitous manner.
A rare Dragons foray into the attacking third created a free-kick opportunity. Although the Bale effort from around 35 yards out was solid, beating the wall and dipping with a good amount of power, Joe Hart should have made the save. He didn't, and the Welsh fans exploded with joy.
Squawka Football pointed out the goal allowed Bale to join an exclusive list after also netting a free-kick in the team's opener against Slovakia:
Phil McNulty of BBC Sport offered no excuses for Hart:
Hodgson made two changes at half-time, bringing Sturridge on for Raheem Sterling and Vardy on for Kane in an effort to spark more efficient attacking after the break.
It only took around 10 minutes for that decision to pay off. Williams accidentally headed the ball toward his own goal, and Vardy, as was so often the case with Leicester City this past season, was in the right spot at the right time to get England back level.
John Leicester of the Associated Press spotlighted the English fan reaction:
The Three Lions were the more active side during the final 30 minutes of the match as they spent a lot of time in opposing territory searching for openings. Wales' vaunted defensive structure held firm and appeared poised to keep the match all square.
All it took was one second of defensive chaos to open the door for Sturridge, though. He took full advantage, poking a shot to the near post for the winner just a few minutes before the final whistle.
UEFA Euro 2016 spotlighted the moment of triumph:
ESPN Stats and Info provided further details about the late winner:
Looking ahead, England are now in a far more promising position than when stoppage time began. Although the job still isn't done, the Three Lions can at least head into their group finale knowing a draw will be enough to guarantee advancement.
Wales were mere minutes away from staying in the driver's seat in Group B. Instead, the Dragons must now prepare for a fixture against an extremely desperate Russian side Monday with an eye on earning all three points to make sure it moves on.
Even though Wales head coach Chris Coleman didn't hide his disappointment, he also made it clear his side must rebound quickly to get the necessary result next time out, per Jacob Murtagh of the Daily Mirror:
I am really gutted and absolutely devastated for our fans. But this is tournament football, let's get this out of the way and get up in the morning and make sure our minds and focus is on the next challenge.
We have waited so long to be here but there was always going to be disappointments along the way. This is one of them, this is a real tough one but we have to show our mettle and make sure we bounce back.
We have 90 minutes to make the most of something we have worked hard for. But what doesn't hurt you makes you stronger.
On the opposite end of the emotion spectrum, Sarah Clapson of the Nottingham Post passed along Sturridge's comments about scoring the deciding goal:
It's a great feeling, unbelievable. I'm grateful for the opportunity from the gaffer. It's a beautiful feeling to represent your country in a great rivalry against another country. It's great.
There's one more game in the group to go so no one's getting too excited but the atmosphere is unbelievable, and the togetherness between the two countries is amazing. It's a great feeling and hopefully we can go through.
Meanwhile, Hodgson commented on the staff's level of happiness with the victory, which he always felt was within reach despite trailing at halftime, as relayed by BBC Sport.
"It's a long time since myself and the coaching staff have showed such joy," he told BBC Radio 5. "When the chances don't go in and you've compounded your task by conceding that Gareth Bale goal, it really is a happy moment when both the substitutes score. I thought it was on the cards all the way through the second half."
All match statistics courtesy of the tournament's official site.