England overhauled a stubborn, skilful France to snatch victory in a see-sawing Six Nations match at Twickenham.
Eddie Jones’ side trailed 17-13 at the break after dazzling scores from Antoine Dupont and Damian Penaud had put France in front.
The hosts’ pressure told in a cagey second half as Maro Itoje barged over for a 77th-minute score.
Even then France threatened to land a decisive counter-punch but Brice Dulin’s break was snuffed out.
Wales’ win over Italy earlier in the day means England’s victory is too late to salvage a Six Nations title defence.
But victory went some way to re-establishing England’s credentials as the northern hemisphere’s superpower, in world rankings at least.
The 2019 World Cup runners-up had slipped to fourth, below France, after defeats by Scotland and Wales in their opening three games of this year’s campaign.
Today’s victory takes them back above their opponents to third.
But, with Wales and Scotland upwardly mobile and France a few minutes away from a first win at Twickenham since 2005, any claims to being Europe’s number one side are far from conclusive.
France, who play unbeaten Wales in Paris next weekend, can still win the title for the first time since 2010.
England (13) 23
Tries: Watson, Itoje Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 3
France (17) 20
Tries: Dupont, Penaud Cons: Jalibert 2 Pens: Jalibert 2