England are staring down the barrel of a first World Cup group exit since 1958 after Luis Suarez’s brace secured Uruguay a hard-fought victory.
Yet again the Three Lions looked decent going forwards but susceptible at the back, with that defensive frailty exposed in Sao Paulo.
Described as a do-or-die encounter for Roy Hodgson’s side, the 2-1 defeat now means their exit will be confirmed should Italy and Costa Rica draw on Friday. Even if that does not happen, progression will still be out of their hands heading into the Group D finale against the Costa Ricans.
Wayne Rooney twice came close and Diego Godin was fortunate not to be sent off during the first half, which ended with Uruguay capitalising on lax defending as Suarez nodded home a fine chipped Edinson Cavani cross.
Having rode their luck on a number of occassions after half-time, England looked to have secured a vital draw as Rooney prodded home his first ever World Cup goal from close range.
It was not to be, though, as captain Steven Gerrard accidentally headed towards his own goal and into the path of Suarez, with his Liverpool team-mate taking no prisoners as he fired home to secure victory.
Roy Hodgson named an unchanged side for England’s crunch Group D clash in Sao Paulo, where opponents Uruguay were able to call on Luis Suarez for the first time at this World Cup.
Despite the opening day defeat to Italy, the Three Lions boss chose the same team that impressed in Manaus, albeit with Wayne Rooney reportedly set to play as number 10 with Danny Welbeck moving to the left flank and Raheem Sterling wide right.
The big news for Uruguay was that Suarez was able to start at Arena Corinthians after undergoing knee surgery last month, replacing Diego Forlan in one of five changes made by Oscar Tabarez to the side defeated by Costa Rica.
This match was played in vastly different conditions to England’s opener against Italy, with the heat and humidity of the Amazonian rainforest replaced by a more familiar climate.
Sao Paulo is affectionately nicknamed ‘Terra da Garoa’ - the Land of Drizzle - and it lived up to its moniker, with players trotting out at Arena Corinthians in overcast, breezy conditions.
There was a wonderful atmosphere in the stadium, but also a fair share of nerves, clearly also felt by the goalkeepers during the early stages
Fernando Muslera was fortunate that Daniel Sturridge had given up on a Leighton Baines through-ball when he inexplicably fumbled the tame pass.
When play swung the other way Joe Hart was unable prevent a deflected Suarez cross from going behind, with the resulting corner from the Liverpool man set to sneak in at the near post until the England goalkeeper’s scrambling intervention.
Play settled and Diego Godin was left walking a tightrope after just nine minutes after blocking a Sturridge flick with his hand, giving Hodgson’s men a 22-yard free-kick that Rooney curled over the wall and inches away from his first goal at a World Cup finals.
England were looking confident but, like against Italy, susceptible at the back as well.
Cristian Rodriguez came agonisingly close to exposing that soft underbelly after 16 minutes, with Phil Jagielka’s hashed clearance falling into the winger’s path and he met it with a fizzing left-footed strike that just cleared the crossbar.
Sturridge saw an attempt loop over due to a timely Alvaro Pereira block, but it was Uruguay starting to edge proceedings.
Hart did well to stop Martin Caceres reaching a free-kick at the far post and soon after Gary Cahill slid in to deny Edinson Cavani, whose first-time shot from the resulting corner was not far off.
England’s front-line were interchanging positions in a bid to unsettle la Celeste’s backline, with Godin fortunate not to receive a second booking for blocking Sturridge with a flailing arm as he attempted to reach a through-ball.
That free-kick came to nothing but they soon had another set piece - one which saw the Uruguay crossbar rattled.
Steven Gerrard floated in a fine ball to the back post, where Rooney outjumped Caceres and powered a close-range header off the goal frame.
Sturridge sent an audacious effort over and forced Muslera into a save, although the latter opportunity came once Uruguay had scored a 39th-minute opener.
After the ball ricocheted off Gerrard, it was spread out wide to Cavani and, allowed too much space by Glen Johnson, his wonderful chipped pass to the back post was brilliantly headed back across goal by Suarez - who sneaked behind Jagielka.
Neither side made changes for the second half, which was just four minutes old when Uruguay first threatened to double their advantage.
Suarez was again causing the problems, aiming another corner at the near post and forcing Hart into a parry which, fortunately for him, was not straight into the path of an opponent.
A last-ditch Gerrard block stopped Alvaro Gonzalez as la Celeste had England on the ropes, with only poor finishing from Uruguay’s star men preventing them extending their lead.
First, a fortunate deflection put Suarez though only for him to drag wide, then Cavani ran between the dozy Johnson and Cahill, somehow screwing wide with just Hart to beat.
England were riding their luck and almost capitalised in the 54th minute, as Rooney met a Baines cross and sent a low strike that Muslera denied with a great save.
The Uruguay goalkeeper collided with Welbeck as the England forward attempted to reach another Baines cross and then collected a hopeful Jordan Henderson shot, before Sterling saw penalty appeals waved away.
Pereira required treatment after taking a knee to the head during Sterling’s run - the winger’s last contribution before being replaced by Ross Barkley.
Adam Lallana followed him onto the field after Gerrard was booked for a late challenge, with England becoming increasingly frustrated.
Sturridge hit straight at Muslera as hope began to seep away, only for the Three Lions to eke out the leveller they so desperately craved.
Glen Johnson made great progress down the right and stretched to send a cross through the legs of Gonzalez into the path of the unmarked Rooney, who pounced to stab home inside the six-yard box.
The normally mild-mannered Hodgson punched the air in celebration and was almost doing so again moments later as Sturridge made room to test Muslera.
Again, though, it is not the attack which has been England’s issue at this tournament.
This time it was captain Gerrard at fault, accidentally heading towards his own goal under pressure into the path of Liverpool team-mate Suarez, who had broken free of the England backline and rifled home superbly from an acute angle.
The striker raced off in an emotional celebration after the goal which England were unable to find answer to, with Suarez held aloft by his team-mates at the final whistle.