Alastair Cook was relieved to at last complete his 20th Test century after a clutch of near misses.
Cook's unbeaten 114 on day one of the first Investec Test against South Africa at the Kia Oval was an emotional achievement for several reasons.
It came only three days after Cook had attended the funeral of his former shoolboy opening partner David Randall, who died aged just 27 from cancer.
Cook was also moving level with his Essex mentor and England batting coach Graham Gooch, among others, in joint-fifth in his country's all-time list of prolific Test centurions.
It was an especially gratifying moment too, when he pushed Imran Tahir for a single to cover to move to three figures, because Cook has twice fallen just six runs short of a hundred since he made a career-best 294 at Edgbaston almost a year ago.
He shared a second-wicket stand of 170 with Jonathan Trott (71) in a stumps total of 267 for three, after Morne Morkel had Andrew Strauss lbw in the first over of the series.
"It was very satisfying," he said of his chanceless 222-ball century.
"When you come so close a few times - I think it's been a year since my last Test hundred - it makes it a very special moment.
"It's nice to join Goochie. Clearly he was a great player, and to have the same amount of hundreds as him is special."
Remembering his schoolboy friend from Maldon Cricket Club, it was evident Thursday's hundred was poignant for Cook.
"Clearly it was an emotional time, and when you score hundreds the emotions are right up there," he said.
"We are lucky enough to play cricket - unfortunately he can't."
Cook admitted, after Strauss' early departure, it was tough going for him and Trott.
"In that first session, it nibbled around," he said.
"We had to grind our way through it and because the pitch is quite dry on top with not much underneath, it was quite slow."
South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald gave due credit to Cook, but insisted too that his own charges had done themselves justice.
"Take nothing away from England today," he said.
"They batted really well; I really thought that Alastair Cook showed immense discipline and concentration.
"He made us come to him at times.
"It's a hard day's Test cricket. But I really thought we stuck to our task really well."
Donald had only minor qualms about South Africa's toils.
"There were times I thought we could have been a little bit more aggressive. The only thing that really lacked was the moment where we could pounce, but overall I would take that day.
"We never allowed England to run away with the day. We talked long and hard about how we wanted to 'suffocate' the two left-handers in the crease.
"I thought we bowled better and better, and the confidence grew.
"We've got to make inroads tomorrow early. That's our big goal, to open up an end and carry on from there.
"It's a huge day for us tomorrow."
Donald was also at pains to stress South Africa's pace spearhead Dale Steyn, who was spotted with strapping on his right ankle but nonetheless bowled 21 overs, is not in any discomfort.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with Dale Steyn.
"I don't know where this rumour came from, but I can assure you Dale Steyn is absolutely fine."