Wayne Bennett claimed he was not nervous as Tonga mounted an extraordinary late fightback but fell just short of denying England a place in the Rugby League World Cup final.
England looked to be easing their way through to a showdown with co-hosts Australia in Brisbane next Saturday, leading 20-0 with seven minutes remaining courtesy of a try and eight points from the boot of Gareth Widdop as well as scores from Jermaine McGillvary and John Bateman.
The Pacific Islanders, backed by a passionate army of supporters, kept knocking at the door and left England rattled with late tries from Tevita Pangai Junior, Siliva Havili and Tuimoala Lolohea in quick succession.
Andrew Fifita thought he had won it with a matter of seconds remaining when he regathered the ball to go over after Elliott Whitehead looked to have stripped it from his hands, but referee Matt Cecchin deemed he knocked on and refused to check with the TMO.
England held on for a 20-18 win at a sold-out Mount Smart Stadium to reach their first World Cup final since 1995 and England head coach Bennett said there was never any panic on his part.
"Nah, I wasn't nervous," the Australian said.
"I just wanted the full-time hooter to go, but nothing else [was going through my mind]. The time clock was on our side."
Bennett added: "It was a quality game of football, [Tonga] had some chances they probably should have taken as well, but we kept turning up in defence which was great. At the end of the day our defence won us the game,
"[It was] probably not [good enough to beat Australia], but we will be there next week, we'll still go to the game. We are a better team than we were last year, we wouldn't have won this game last year."
England look set to be without captain Sean O'Loughlin (quad) and hooker Josh Hodgson (knee) after the duo were injured in the dramatic semi-final.