Harry Kane scored his sixth goal of the tournament as the sides drew 1-1 after extra time.
Colombia, who equalised through Yerry Mina’s powerful header in second half stoppage time, started the extra 30 minutes more forcefully.
Backed by the majority of the 45,000 spectators at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow and galvanized by the late leveller, they played with a creative energy and verve that mocked their previous 90 minutes of niggle and snarl.
With the departure of Raheem Sterling, England appeared to lose their link between midfield and attack. They started to misplace passes and mistime their movements into space.
“We were knocked by the equaliser,” admitted England coach Gareth Southgate. “We were then back in control of the game trying to push for the win. But we were not leaving ourselves exposed. It was a night when I knew we were going to get over the line. I felt we had the belief and resilience to get over the line.”
The source of Southgate’s faith springs from intangible otherworld. England’s ineptitude in penalty shootouts is the known known of world football. And the latest devastation loomed when Jordan Henderson missed the third of the five kicks to leave Colombia 3-2 up.
But Mateus Uribe’s attempt for Colombia hit the bar and Kieran Trippier slotted home to level for England.
Southgate's disciples had the tie for the taking when Jordan Pickford saved Carlos Bacca’s fifth shot for the South Americans.
Eric Dier seized the glory.
“I think a victory in this fashion is an important moment for this group of players and the groups to come," added Southgate. "Not just winning the shootout but suffering at the end of the game in a stadium that was probably five to one Colombian fans. To come through all of that … we’ve talked to the players about writing their own stories and it showed they don’t have to conform to what’s happened before.
"It was a special night for our team and all of the supporters at home.” Amen to that St Gareth.
England will play Sweden in the last eight in Samara on 7 July. The Scandanavians reached their first quarter-final since 1994 with a 1-0 win over Switzerland in St Petersburg. Emil Forsberg scored the winner mid-way through the second half.
Like Southgate, the Sweden coach, Janne Andersson, insists on the collective and after advancing to the quarter-final, he said his players have no reason to believe the last eight is all they deserve. “If you start to lower the bar or your ambition, that's not going to be satisfying,” he said.
Sweden emerged top of Group F which contained defending champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea. They saw off established powers such as the Netherlands and Italy during the qualifying campaign for the tournament in Russia.
"We're not satisfied with this," added Andersson. "We want to win the next match as well.”