Hero of a last-16 penalty shootout against Colombia and man-of-the-match against Sweden in the quarter-finals, Pickford spread himself brilliantly to deny Mario Mandzukic in the final minute of the first-half of extra time.
Yet, Mandzukic was not to be denied with his next effort as he ghosted in behind the England defence to sweep the ball beyond Pickford into the far corner.
When the final whistle blew, England players sank to the floor, some in tears, physically and emotionally exhausted.
However, once Southgate had raised them to their feet, they stood together and were given a rousing send-off by the travelling thousands of fans behind the goal, grateful for the journey they have enjoyed in Russia.
Now it is they, rather than the World Cup, that will be going home — but with plenty to be proud about and hope that the best years for most of this squad are still to come.