Ten-man England grabbed revenge over Iceland – after an incredible night of last-gasp penalty drama.
Yet only a missed penalty at the other end seconds later secured the Three Lions victory in a scrappy Nations League opener.
The win in Reykjavik means Southgate’s class of 2020 also set the record straight - four years on from the country’s humiliating Euro 2016 exit against the Icelandic minnows.
Sterling admitted later it was a crazy finale to a tough battle at a deserted Laugardalsvollur stadium:
The Man City star said: “It was a strange game to be coming back to.
"It was hard but we got through it in the end.
“We always knew it would be difficult with no fans for the first time with the national team.
"And we didn’t expect the red card but it happened.
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“We kept creating chances and got the penalty in the end but we shouldn’t have given the other one away. We got lucky."
With normal penalty taker Harry Kane subbed, Sterling took over the duties and cooly slotted in.
The Three Lions winger went on: “ As soon as I got the ball, I knew I would put it straight down the middle – because it was in the 91st minute.”
While Walker’s international return after an 18-month absence was cut short by two yellows, Man City ace Phil Foden and Man Utd winger Mason Greenwood made their debuts.
Sterling was impressed by both, adding: “I’m really glad to be playing with such exciting players.
“It’s a bright future ahead - and we need to just keep growing as a team together.”
Foden was thrilled to get a first cap. The Etihad ace, 20, said: "I want to keep on playing for my country."