Nothing could separate the sides after a physical first half before Ella Toone’s outrageous chip put England ahead and blew the roof off Wembley.
Germany found themselves back in it 17 minutes later as Lina Magull finally got past a stoic Mary Earps to take the game to extra-time.
And substitute Chloe Kelly then provided the decisive goal on 110 minutes, poking home from close-range before wheeling away in celebration in front of 87,192 fans.
England started the final on the front foot and regularly tested Germany goalkeeper Merle Frohms, with Ellen White having the clearest chance as she got her head to a fizzing Fran Kirby cross but found Frohms in her way.
Lucy Bronze frequently put her body on the line, first putting in a heroic block to stop a shot from Sara Dabritz, before Rachel Daly followed suit to send the ball behind for a Germany corner which Bronze headed clear.
Even as the game settled it remained physical between the two sides, England earning two free-kicks in quick succession, before forcing Germany into a series of corners, the middle one setting up Georgia Stanway for a delightful floating chance which Frohms had to tip behind.
Leah Williamson put in a goal saving clearance on the line on 25 minutes as a goalmouth scramble ensued, before Earps was able to gather the ball and restore some calm to a frantic first half.
With 38 minutes gone, White had the final clear-cut chance of the half as she found Mead on the turn before the Arsenal player pulled back to White, whose strike went inches over the bar, ensuring the teams went into the break all square.
Germany were threatening at the restart, but Earps stood firm to an early chance from substitute Tabea Wassmuth as she made a strong run into the box and England’s goalkeeper was not needed for Germany’s next chance as Magull fired wide on the turn.
The German pressure came to nothing as substitute Toone put England ahead on 62 minutes, running on to a pinpoint cross from midfield maestro Keira Walsh before Toone raised the class levels even further by chipping Frohms to send Wembley into raptures.
Magull soon reminded England the game was far from over as she rattled the crossbar, Earps fingertips denying an equaliser, before safely holding on to the rebound from Lea Schuller as Wembley caught its breath from a frenetic five minutes.
And it was Magull who brought Germany level, combining well with Wassmuth whose low cross was poked over Earps and into the roof of the net with 11 minutes remaining in normal time.
Substitute Alessia Russo was brought down by Kathrin Hendrich to provide England a final opportunity to win it with two minutes of added time remaining but the German defence were well-set to clear as the game was taken to extra time.
No team could gain the advantage in the opening 15 minutes of extra-time as both sides’ tired, having given everything for 105 minutes.
Jill Scott, the only surviving player from the EURO 2009 final, provided fresh impetus for England’s attack as fellow substitute Kelly whipped up the crowd when England earned a corner.
And it was Kelly who grabbed the winner, stabbing home the rebound from the corner with ten minutes remaining for her first international goal and perhaps the most famous in England Women’s history.
As they had done after England’s first goal, Germany immediately went on the attack but Earps was there again to safely hold on.
England withstood that pressure as they emerged victorious in their home tournament to memorably bring football home at Wembley.
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