Just when the England fans started ironically serenading the pony-tailed Zlatan Ibrahimovic with "you're just a s*** Andy Carroll", the Swedish forward moved up a gear, adding to his first-half goal with three late gems, including a strike that defied geometry let alone belief.
Ibrahimovic's first was a poacher's finish, his second an emphatic shot, his third a 30-yard free-kick. England had not conceded a hat-trick since the marvelous Marco van Basten gave Tony Adams nightmares in 1988. It needed something special to go one step beyond that and Ibrahimovic delivered in spectacular style.
It was his fourth goal that will linger long in the memory, that will be saluted around the world. He was out on the right, Joe Hart's poor clearance dropping towards him. Hart, a bag of nerves in the second half, was off his line but the angle was still ludicrously tight.
It needed technique, imagination and a sense of outrageous boldness to attempt what Ibrahimovic did, sending the ball back in with a sensational overhead kick.
A beautiful goal capped a brutal end to the friendly for England, a first defeat for Roy Hodgson. With Steven Gerrard on the pitch, England played with urgency and there were moments of promise from Raheem Sterling, Steven Caulker and Leon Osman, but Gerrard's withdrawal removed organisation and resilience and Ibrahimovic pounced and pounced and pounced.
England had needed an uncertain half-hour before they finally got going. In that time, the visitors conceded to Ibrahimovic and it could have been worse such was the nervous nature of their defending.
Ibrahimovic struck after 20 minutes, injecting some life into a subdued, overly respectful home crowd. England were authors of their own demise, an ill-judged pass in from Glen Johnson placing Sterling under pressure.
Sterling was robbed of the ball and Martin Olsson stormed upfield, flying into space vacated by Johnson. Caulker managed to block Ibrahimovic's first shot but the Paris St Germain striker made no mistake with his second attempt, stabbing it powerfully past Joe Hart.
England were struggling, disappointing for half an hour, looking about as likely to knit together as the Friends Arena's newly-laid pitch. Cleverley even replaced a large divot at one point. One pass from Sterling hit a bobble and bounced apologetically up. Yet England responded. Gerrard took responsibility, urging the team on. Stitched into his boots were the words 'Sweden v England; 14-11-2012, 100 Caps' and he used those boots to good effect, sweeping balls up field, whether still or moving.
Surrounded by so many youngsters, Gerrard played the head-teacher on a school trip, organising and educating. Another Liverpool player was beginning to pick up the pace.
Sterling was soon running at the Swedes, showing his promise by beating Kim Kallstrom before finding Welbeck. The United forward worked the ball to Johnson, whose low shot was almost turned in by Tom Cleverley. Close.
England were building, particularly through Sterling. With 10 minutes remaining before the break, the teenager showed his ability to thread a pass, picking out Young with a fine pass from right to left. Young darted at Seb Larsson, deceiving him with a step-over and racing on.
Larsson failed to chase back but Young was long gone anyway, crossing left-footed for his United team-mate Welbeck to equalise from close range.
Lightning struck twice. Again Sterling was the catalyst, earning a free-kick that Gerrard took charge of. England's captain swept the ball into the box and there was Caulker sliding it past goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.
Moments after scoring, the Spurs 20-year-old demonstrated the defensive side of his game, managing to block an Ibrahimovic shot. England continued to apply the pressure after the break. Leon Osman, neat and nimble, made a little run, cutting the ball back to Gerrard, whose shot cannoned off Jonas Olsson for a corner. Gerrard then returned the compliment, sliding the ball through to Osman, whose low shot was pushed behind by Isaksson.
Hodgson began to ring the changes, sending on Jack Wilshere to partner Gerrard while Daniel Sturridge took over the front-running duties as Welbeck went left.
Ryan Shawcross was brought on and was soon caught out. Anders Svensson drilled a long pass forward, Ibrahimovic eluded Shawcross with ease and thundered the ball past Hart. It was poor defending. Hart was hardly covering himself with glory. Moments later, Ibrahimovic unleashed a 30-yard free-kick that totally bamboozled Hart. England were deflated.
Goals pay the rent and Ibrahimovic certainly chipped in with the overheads last night. (© Daily Telegraph, London)