On the crest of a wave after their memorable 4-1 against the Netherlands, hosts England beat Spain 4-2 on penalties to move into the semi-finals.
Terry Venables' side had produced a truly thrilling display in their final group game and now had an ever more enthusiastic nation behind them. Their momentum was checked by a well-organised Spanish side, however, with only the spot-kick heroics of Stuart Pearce and David Seaman enough to take them past Javier Clemente's charges and into the last four.
No one had played a more pivotal role in England's resurgent tournament than Alan Shearer, and Spain were all too aware of the threat posed by the burly, yet mobile striker. Immediately gifted little room in which to work, Shearer made a rare escape into space on four minutes but his fierce shot was well stopped by Andoni Zubizarreta.
Spain swiftly gained a foothold, however, twice denied by an offside flag before carving open the England defence just before half-time; Javier Manjarín was clean through but hesitated long enough for Seaman to advance and block with his legs.
Such a moment of laxness appeared to prompt England to tighten up after the interval, with Steve McManaman and Paul Gascoigne finally starting to work the openings denied to them earlier on. Indeed it was Gascoigne who fashioned the best opportunity of the game on 73 minutes when he chipped to the far post for Shearer, who somehow turned over from close range.
Extra time was required and the golden goal was in play for the first time – one goal was all that was needed. It was not forthcoming, though, and EURO '96 had its first penalty shoot-out.
England edged in front when Fernando Hierro struck the bar with Spain's first attempt and were 2-1 ahead by the time Pearce stepped up. The lionhearted left-back, who had missed in England's shoot-out loss to Germany in the FIFA World Cup semi-finals six years earlier, dispatched emphatically and celebrated with gusto. His team-mates followed suit before Seaman stopped Miguel Nadal to cement his country's progress.