Well, they've done it. It was close, it was tense, it was nervy but England have managed to get over the line and secure their place in next year's World Cup finals.
The 2-0 scoreline looks pretty routine, though it doesn't reflect the second-half performance that had England fans on the edge of their seats, biting their nails and wincing during times of panic – shortly followed by sheer relief. The hosts were by far the superior of the two sides in the opening 45 minutes. Chances came and went, with the attacking trio of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck all failing to find the net.
In truth, England could have gone into the break at least two goals to the good, leading to many of the England faithful inside the raucous Wembley to believe that a more comfortable route to Brazil was to follow.
In the end, strikes from Rooney and Steven Gerrard saw England over the line but the feeling that resides in the back of one's mind after the game is not one of optimism and anticipation, but one of reflection.
England boss Roy Hodgson was, once again, brave in his team selection. The gutsy inclusion of Andros Townsend for last Friday's win over Montenegro was followed up with the benching of Frank Lampard for the Poland clash, Michael Carrick filling in alongside captain Steven Gerrard.
Carrick's name on the teamsheet was greeted with approval amongst journalists, purists of the game and, of course, Manchester United fans. The reception on social networking sites such as Twitter was less encouraging, however.
Carrick? Is Wilshere dead or something?
— Ashley Wright (@AshleyWright_92) October 15, 2013
Underrated probably isn't a word that should be used to describe Carrick - a midfielder that has featured over 330 times for one of the biggest and best clubs in the world – but for want of a better word, that is exactly how I'll describe him.
Carrick, for most parts, goes unnoticed. The 32-year-old keeps the United midfield ticking over, retaining possession, always looking for an opportunity to carve open the opposition. He is efficient, consistent, reliable. He will not make crunching tackles, throw himself about the pitch nor will his goal tally reach double figures each and every season like Gerrard and Lampard. Unsurprisingly, Carrick's appearances for the national team have been limited due to the likes of the two aforementioned players' popularity.
"Michael is the most under-rated and under-valued player in the league," says his team-mate Rio Ferdinand. “All the talk will be about other players who maybe do a little bit more explosive things than Michael does.”
Former United midfielder Bryan Robson – the epitome of a box-to-box midfielder – is of the same opinion.
“Michael has always had a few critics at Manchester United, not within the club, but from fans," Robson said. "I think that's because he is not the type of dynamic player that fans have been used to in midfield, like Paul Ince or Roy Keane.”
True, though Ince and Keane couldn't pass a ball like Carrick. Over the past three seasons, he has completed around 90 per cent of his passes and his performance against Poland reflected just that.
England were at their very best in the opening period, and Carrick was influential. The hosts were camped in their opponents' half for the most part, Carrick orchestrating each and every England attack – allowing his team-mates the opportunity to pass and move, lending the ball off them for mere moments at a time.
The Red Devils man complements combative captain Gerrard like no other player in the England squad. When the Liverpool man goes, his United counterpart stays. In the run-up to the game the Liverpudlian admitted that he's not the most vocal captain on the field, yet the two seem to have a telepathic knowledge of what the other is likely to do.
For years and years England managers and fans have agonised about the flawed partnership of Gerrard and Lampard. How can two of the country's finest midfielders not play alongside each other? The two have had to adapt so many times throughout their career that they can surely mould their game to play with each other during a few international outings each year, right?
Gerrard is one of the finest midfielders of his generation. As is Lampard. But it doesn't mean that their partnership will yield as much success as they have enjoyed personally throughout their careers.
With England's place in Brazil secure, Hodgson will have a number of opportunities to experiment with his side ahead of the World Cup finals next year. Throughout his long and illustrious career as a manager, Hodgson hasn't been known to take risks when there was something at stake. The England boss knew that Townsend would give England an extra dimension against Montenegro, as he knew that Carrick was the man to plug the hole in the midfield against Poland.
Carrick was substituted against the Poles, replaced by the very man whose number he had taken prior to kick off, Lampard, though the substitution was not one of reflection, but one of optimism and anticipation. England needed the victory and the following substitutions were to ensure that. Lampard came on to replace the weary Carrick who had worked tirelessly during his stint. Hodgson also introduced James Milner and Jack Wilshere as the hosts switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 formation.
Lampard, as you'd expect, did what was required of him and did so with a bit of guile and vigour, but the Chelsea man will know that his days are numbered.
Carrick and Lampard are sure to have seats reserved on the plane to the samba capital of the world, a country where flair, eccentricity and a desire to stand out is commonplace, but amid the hustle and bustle of all that will come in Brazil next year, Hodgson will demand reliability, consistency and proficiency. And there's only one man for that job.