England's campaign up to this point had been played out against a backdrop of negative media headlines but they delivered a result when it mattered in their final group game.
In the 23rd minute James Milner swung in a ball from the right and Defoe got there ahead of Marko Suler to fire in a volley that found the roof of the net via the palms of Samir Handanovic.
Slovenia had barely troubled England’s defence but they provided a scare after 68 minutes when Novakovic and substitute Zlatko Dedic both got in shots blocked by Terry and Glen Johnson, before Birsa dragged a third attempt past the post.
Matjaz Kek’s men came close again in the dying moments only for Upson to deny Tim Matavz with a last-ditch challenge and the USA's late winner up in Pretoria sealed the Slovenia's elimination.
For England, by contrast, the show goes on.
World Cup 2010 - Final Group C Standings
Group C W D L F A GD Pts United States 1-2-0 4:3 +1 5 England 1-2-0 2:1 +1 5 Slovenia 1-1-1 3:3 0 4 Algeria 0-1-2 0:2 -2 1