England's encouraging autumn campaign ended with a 21-11 defeat to struggling world champions South Africa and a blunt reality check.
Two penalties from Toby Flood and some intense goalline defence had somehow kept England on level terms at 6-6 at the interval.
But the Springboks, who were beaten 21-17 by Scotland last weekend, sealed a seventh consecutive victory over England with tries from replacement flanker Willem Alberts and wing Lwazi Mvovo.
Ben Foden scored a 90-metre intercept try late in the game but it was merely a consolation score. England had been unable to cope with the Springbok pressure.
Toby Flood kicked England into an early lead after Jannie du Plessis was penalised for taking out Ben Youngs but it was all square when Morne Steyn converted after England's scrum conceded a penalty.
When Shontayne Hape was taken out in the air on halfway, Flood went for touch. England drove forward from the lineout through Andrew Sheridan before Francois Steyn hit the ruck from the side and Flood nailed the penalty.
Morne Steyn booted the visitors level four minutes before the break and England opened the second half by conceding a soft penalty when Mike Tindall was spotted offside and Morne Steyn nudged the Springboks ahead.
South Africa's pressure began to tell and they drove through phase after phase before moving the ball wide and Pierre Spies' wonderfully delayed pass sent Alberts over in the corner.
The Springboks then supplied the killer blow. From an attacking lineout both Francois and Morne Steyn dropped back into position for a drop-goal - but the ball was moved wide for Mvovo, who brushed past Chris Ashton to score.
England were gifted a late try after Foden picked off CJ Van Der Linde's offload and sprinted 90 metres to score. Tindall tried the quick drop-goal conversion and hit the post.