This was Australia’s backyard; their soil, their land, their World Cup. You never win easy here and you definitely do not expect to be liked when you play for England in this part of the world.

That made it even more special that England won, knocking the hosts out of their own tournament, crushing their spirits and dreams. England took them apart, outplayed and outclassed them, and they did it all a very long way from home.

They showed a nasty streak that perhaps even they did not know they had until Australia brought – or should that be provoked – it out of them.

The Lionesses were poked, kicked, elbowed and even spied on by their hosts; a national newspaper goaded them, welcoming them “to the jungle”, warning them that nothing was off limits. It was designed to intimidate. It did not work and neither did much of what Australia tried on the pitch either.

England were booed and jeered throughout. It was hostile and unwelcoming. It was everything a high-stakes, high-pressure clash between these two nations should be. It was unflinching, intense and occasionally violent. It was great. Sporting theatre at its captivating best.

England were the villains, they were there to be disliked and thrived in the role. They fought fire with fire. They were not bullied or cowed. They got stuck in, they smashed into Australia, they left their mark. The Lionesses sharpened their claws and made sure Australia felt them.

United by history, divided by sport. This was Australia versus England, the old world against the new. They are our friends and our allies – we love each other really – but on nights like this they seem like anything but.

England took it all in and smiled back. Then they inflicted pain, they hurt Australia long before they beat them. This is what all the best villains do, they pull it off with flair and panache.

From the moment Keira Walsh, who is not renowned for her spiteful intent or even her physical strength, looked up and saw Australia’s star player Sam Kerr coming towards her in the opening minutes. The look was obvious, she knew who was coming to compete for the ball. Walsh’s eyes widened a little and then she made sure Kerr felt her studs and sent her to the turf. There was even a rugby style pat on the head. A faux act of apology, designed to send a message. There is more where that came from. And there was too.

Bronze shoved Steph Catley to the ground and almost into the advertising hoardings, and she appeared to be suppressing a laugh as she ran away. Jess Carter wrapped a leg around and a knee into the side of Kerr and made her Chelsea team-mate wince in pain.

Alex Greenwood was shown a yellow card for chopping Kerr down in about as cynical a fashion as you are likely to see. Kerr has had a calf injury and England made sure to test whether it was healed or not.

But what England really did was silence the crowd, annoy and frustrate them. Slowing the game down when they needed to, speeding it up when it suited them. They took their hostility and used it as motivation.

“The crowd were against us in the last game too,” said Ella Toone, whose opening goal denied Australia the chance to merely play on the counter-attack. “Nearly every game we have played in this tournament they have been against us. It doesn’t faze us at all. We just get on with it and get on with getting the win.

“I think we feed off that animosity a bit out there. Shushing the crowd was a big part of tonight, we did that with three excellent goals and the crowd was pretty quiet by the end.

“We’ve just come up against the host nation and beat them 3-1 in front of their crowd, that’s our mentality. Nothing gets in our way.”

Australia tried to stop England. They gave it their best shot. They gave it everything they could. But they failed, they lost and were well beaten in the end.

What we know is that this England team will always find a way. They are not a nice team, not to face anyway. They are not going to be bullied or intimidated, not even by a nation that has, traditionally, been so good at doing it in a huge variety of sporting arenas in the past – especially at home.

The Lionesses are not to be messed with – and they are one game away from conquering the world.