SO, Sven-Goran Eriksson and England lack passion, do they?

They could hardly have delivered a more fitting riposte to that charge than the one that took them to the top of Group 7 at the Stadium of Light last night.

Darius Vassell, a second-half substitute for the injured Michael Owen, scored the 76th-minute goal that enabled England to leapfrog Turkey in their Euro 2004 qualifying battle.

As Vassell and his teammates celebrated wildly - joined on the pitch by a significant number of England fans - Eriksson punched the air and applauded his side's efforts.

Suddenly, after the anaemic performances against Macedonia, Australia and Liechtenstein, the smile has returned to the face of English football.

David Beckham added a stoppage-time penalty, won by Kieron Dyer after he had been pulled down by Ergun, to ease England's fraught late nerves.

And as supporters again invaded the field, Turkey's Aston Villa defender Alpay appeared to kick at least one spectator.

But those scenes ought not to detract from England's best performance since they beat Argentina in the World Cup, almost eight months ago.

Eriksson got his tactics absolutely spot-on. The diamond midfield formation strangled the life out of Turkey, with Nicky Butt superb as a bulwark in front of the defence.

Wayne Rooney also justified the England coach's decision to give him his first international start at the expense of Emile Heskey.

Vassell won the corner that led to his goal when he surged down the left, cut inside and let fly with a shot that Rustu Recber pushed wide.

Turkey did not clear Beckham's flag-kick satisfactorily, and Wayne Bridge's cross found Rio Ferdinand unmarked and on-side 12 yards out. His shot was blocked by Rustu, but Vassell was on hand to drill the loose ball home for his fourth England goal.

Then, Dyer earned the spot-kick that Beckham converted to maintain his record of having scored in every qualifier thus far, and England were home and dry.

Early on, however, World Cup semi-finalists Turkey had held the balance of power as England struggled to get to grips with their new formation.

Turkey's best opportunity of the first half came after Tugay had begun a move that cut a swathe through England's defences.

Butt was bypassed as Yildiray Basturk advanced on the retreating rearguard, and his powerful 25-yard drive was beaten away by David James.

As Ilhan Mansiz tried to seize on the loose ball, James scrambled to his feet and smothered the danger.

Ilhan also drilled a shot just over from a narrow angle, but while the Turks always looked threatening, too often they were let down by the lack of a killer pass.

England, on the other hand, found holes in Turkey's defence when they were able to keep possession for long enough to fashion an opening.

Indeed, the hosts' main first-half worry seemed to be whether Beckham would stay on the pitch as he grew increasingly tetchy.

Booked early on after a foul on Emre - which means he misses the game against Slovakia in June - the England captain struggled to keep his temper in the face of some blatant provocation.

He was involved in a contretemps with Okan after the midfielder booted the ball against Beckham's heels after Turkey had been awarded a controversial free-kick.

But Beckham, like his teammates, became more settled as the first half developed and England slowly asserted themselves.

Their crossing, for the large part, was poor - Beckham was the main culprit as he squandered a series of chances to supply Rooney and Owen.

But there were encouraging early signs for England as Rustu, an apparent target for Arsenal and Manchester United, made an appalling blunder.

After an attritional opening 11 minutes, Rustu somehow contrived to fumble Steven Gerrard's hanging cross under pressure from Owen.

The ball could not have fallen any kinder for Rooney, but his goalbound shot from ten yards struck Ergun on the arm. Still England should have scored, but Beckham managed to drill his shot from close range narrowly wide with Rustu stranded.

Whether a penalty ought to have been awarded by referee Urs Meier was a moot point - Ergun's arm prevented a goal, but he could not have deliberately made an illegal block.

However, what was indisputable was that England had passed up a golden opportunity to take what would have been a precious lead.

Sol Campbell clearly had the beating of Alpay in the air from Beckham's deep corners, but he was unable to get sufficient power and pace behind his headers to trouble Turkey.

Rooney was showing no signs of suffering from stage fright and he almost created the first goal shortly before half time.

First, his wonderful crossfield ball to Gerrard enabled the midfielder to find Owen in space 12 yards out, but he miskicked horribly.

Then, Rooney threaded a superb ball through Turkey's defence for Owen to race on to, but Rustu dived at his feet to deny the striker.

England continued to dictate the pace of the game after half-time and Turkey were forced to defend with increasing desperation.

A trademark Beckham free-kick hit the outside of the side-netting, while Rustu dived low to his right to shovel away another effort from England's talisman.

Gerrard sent a glancing header from Beckham's inswinging corner across the face of Turkey's goal and to safety as England turned the screw.

Campbell threw himself at the ball in the six-yard box after Beckham had caused confusion, but the defender's header was blocked - possibly by Emre's arm.

James had a huge let-off when Ilhan blazed high and wide with the goalkeeper stranded after he had tried to intercept a long pass that never reached him.

Then, the West Ham United stopper proved himself an able deputy for David Seaman with a full-length stop from Ilhan's header.

But England succeeded in keeping Turkey at arm's length for much of the time, and they added a second goal on the break to write the final chapter in a great night in the country's football history.

Result: England 2 Turkey 0.