Sri Lanka proved a step much too far as England were trounced by 10 wickets for a humbling World Cup exit at the hands of Tillekeratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga.
England's progress to the quarter-finals was unconvincing, involving a succession of improbably tight finishes against allcomers in Group B.
That was not remotely the case at the Premadasa Stadium as openers Dilshan (108 not out) and Tharanga (102 not out) each hit irresistible hundreds in an unbroken stand of 231 to power their team to victory with more than 10 overs to spare.
England had twice defended apparently sub-par totals to scramble the points required in their stuttering campaign, but at no point did they look remotely likely to repeat the dose under lights against the co-hosts.
Jonathan Trott (86) continued his prolific individual campaign, making himself the tournament's highest runscorer so far to underpin England's 229 for six.
But Tharanga and Dilshan made a mockery of the transient notion that an awkward chase was in the offing as the 2007 finalists booked a semi-final with New Zealand at the same venue on Tuesday.
For England, there were unwelcome echoes of a similar hammering against the same opponents at the same stage of the competition at Faisalabad in 1996, when Sri Lanka went on to win their maiden World Cup.
Minus at least two first-choice bowling options because of injury, England again simply could not contain the Sri Lankans, who found the ropes 22 times and cleared them three more.
That proved it was not necessary on the slow surface to bat like Trott, who nonetheless served England well with a typically hard-working 115-ball effort.
By contrast, Tharanga announced himself by carving Tim Bresnan's off-side width for an early four and then advancing to cover Graeme Swann's spin and hit him commandingly straight for six.
One early mis-pull from Dilshan off Bresnan marginally cleared midwicket for a lucky single, while first-change Chris Tremlett disconcerted the same batsman with some inswing.
Both the openers had minor scares off James Tredwell but apart from a half-chance for a caught-and-bowled by Tremlett when Tharanga had 58, Sri Lanka's progress was swift and seamless.
It was unrelenting too.
Tharanga, one half of a record opening stand of 286 against England in another landslide victory at Headingley five years ago, was narrowly beaten to three figures by Dilshan, but had the consolation of bringing up his century by hitting the winning boundary.
After winning the toss, England had badly needed Trott as Sri Lanka's three-man specialist spin attack - with Dilshan also bowling new-ball off-breaks - sought to stifle the batsmen.
The number three shared stands of 64 for the third wicket with Ravi Bopara and then 91 for the fourth with Eoin Morgan, who was unaccountably dropped three times - on 16 and in the 30s - off Sri Lanka's spinners.
Strauss was never able to get Dilshan away and was bowled trying to heave a short ball into the leg-side, having made only five from 19 balls.
Ian Bell, pushed up to open for the first time in more than two years, attuned to the lack of pace much more easily than his out-of-sorts captain.
But when Angelo Mathews had him chipping tamely into the leg-side ring, England had lost their second wicket for the addition of only two runs and Trott and Bopara had to start again, with only a single between them.
They went 15 overs without a boundary yet kept the scoreboard ticking with paddle-sweeps and other assorted deflections off the spinners.
Muttiah Muralitharan almost inevitably had his say as he approaches the final straight in his record-breaking international career.
The master off-spinner defeated Bopara's attempted sweep to win an lbw verdict which was utterly confirmed upon review.
There was no excessive turn for the slow bowlers and Morgan had lots of luck.
Trott reached his 50, containing just one of his eventual two fours, with a reverse-sweep for three off the returning Dilshan.
He needed none of Morgan's good fortune as he expertly played the percentages and picked the gaps.
Morgan finally gave an unmissable chance into the off-side ring, just after reaching his near run-a-ball 50, Mathews making up for being one of the earlier culprits by belatedly doing the basics.
England sprang a surprise by sending Swann in early, only for him to go lbw first ball trying to reverse-slog Ajantha Mendis, and they could muster only 23 for two in the batting powerplay.
Trott at least stayed the course until the penultimate over as he and Matt Prior eked out a total which some considered competitive, but not for long.Reuse content