TIANJIN, China (AFP) - Two-time champions the United States shocked England with three goals in 12 second-half minutes to reach the women's World Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
Rampaging forward Abby Wambach powered home a header soon after half-time before Shannon Boxx and veteran striker Kristine Lilly capitalised on a pair of defensive howlers by the imploding English.
The ruthless win sets up the top-ranked US, unbeaten now in 51 games, for a semi-final against either Brazil or Australia in Hangzhou on Thursday.
England, highly rated despite their low ranking of 12th, had shaded a cagey opening, troubling the American defence with neat passing and finding space on either wing.
Midfielder Rachel Carney almost picked out a lunging Jill Scott from distance and took a potshot which was easily saved by US 'keeper Hope Solo.
But they were shaky on the set piece and were especially vulnerable at the end of the half after rock-solid captain Faye White, engaged in a titanic battle with Wambach, had her nose bloodied by the US striker's elbow.
Wambach volleyed a Stephanie Lopez cross over the bar while Lilly, the most capped player in football history and the only woman to play in all five World Cups, saw a powerful shot saved by England 'keeper Rachel Brown.
It was a warning for England and the US struck three minutes after the break when Wambach charged through a static defence and on to a Lilly corner for her fourth goal of the tournament.
England were suddenly on the ropes and Boxx landed the second blow on 57 minutes, robbing defender Scott on the edge of the penalty area before blasting a precision strike past Brown.
Just three minutes later it was all over as Brown, misreading a bouncing ball from deep, allowed Lilly the simplest of tap-ins for her first goal of this World Cup and her eighth in total.
England have now exited in the quarter-finals in both World Cups they have played after reaching the same stage in 1995.
The United States by contrast have dominated women's football, winning two world titles in 1991 and 1999 and claiming their second Olympic crown three years ago in Athens.
The Americans have now beaten England seven times in 10 meetings, with the last reverse coming in 1988.
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