Croatia had been desperately poor, a shadow of the team who carved Argentina apart in the group stage, but started to get a foothold in the game as the match rolled past the hour mark and Luka Modric's influence grew.
Not only did he equalise with a fearless piece of finishing, he took full advantage of Walker's poor headed clearance to flick a header on for Mandzukic to swoop in and send Croatia to the final.
Croatia will meet France in the 2018 World Cup final after a come from behind victory over England in the semi-final in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. The team will be stronger [in defeat].
Trippier's curling fifth-minute free-kick was his first global goal, a prominent example of the quality of his delivery that has given rise to the "Bury Beckham" moniker, because he was born in Bury near Manchester.
It was suggested before the game, by Business Insider and even Croatian reporters on Federation Internationale de Football Association, that Croatia would be encumbered because of the back-to-back extra-time matches it had to play ahead of the England game.
But it was Croatia who struck in the 109th minute when Perisic won a header on the edge of the box and the ball dropped for Mandzukic whose firm low finish beat Pickford.
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Croatia was supposed to be a exhausted team coming into the match. "Get out on the pitch and then talk, that's what we did".
England's World Cup dream is over after falling to Croatia 2-1 in extra time. And England simply trailed off in the second half when it had just 30 per cent of the ball while Croatia cranked up their game.
Southgate said: "The biggest thing is you could see [from the reaction of] the supporters, you can tell what the players have given and I can't ask anymore".
About 10 minutes before Mandzukic scored, defender Sime Vrsaljko headed a shot on target off the goal line to keep the score tied.
Shortly after Ivan Perisic's equaliser and with England firmly on the back foot, Gareth Southgate looked to freshen things up by withdrawing Sterling and sending in Marcus Rashford in the hope that the 20-year-old could expose Lovren and Vida's exhausted legs. And he makes you feel like you're the best player in the world.
That was enough to silence the entire city as it became apparent that England's World Cup campaign would end at the semi-final stage, yet again. "I think we've built a house here now on good foundations", he said.
"We are an inexperienced team, a young team no one expected to get this far in the first place".