Not until skipper Steven Gerrard slotted home the second goal two minutes from time to confirm a 2-0 win over Poland that secured an automatic berth in next summer's finals was Hodgson able to breathe more easily after an agonising night.
England spurned a succession of chances and though Wayne Rooney scored his ninth goal in 10 internationals before half-time, Poland had their chances as well, with star man Robert Lewandowski twice failing to convert excellent opportunities.
"If you want to win the lottery, buy a lottery ticket," said Hodgson.
"We have our ticket, which is useful in itself.
"Emotions are churning around inside me.
"I died 1,000 deaths every time they crossed the halfway line."
Hodgson has become the sixth Englishman to successfully coach the national side through a World Cup qualifying campaign.
And though he was responsible for taking Switzerland to the 1994 tournament England failed to reach, the 66-year-old admitted it was his proudest achievement.
"I think it will (top the lot)," said Hodgson.
"The only reason I'm cautious is I don't want to denigrate other achievements, or people in Switzerland to think I wasn't very proud of that achievement and that team.
"But I'm English. As an Englishman, it means a little bit more."
Hodgson reserved special words of praise for Gerrard, who he named skipper following his appointment in May last year.
"It was fitting that Gerrard got the goal," said Hodgson.
"If someone has played a captain's innings for the team, it was him."
No matter what happens in Brazil - and expectations will have been fuelled by England's excellent performances over the past five days - Hodgson can console himself in the knowledge he will not now be branded a failure, as would have been the case if qualification had not been achieved.
Now he has seven months to assess the merits of his players before selecting his final 23-man squad for a tournament in the most soccer-mad country of all.
"I'll use the next six or seven months to reflect on it," he said
"There'll be a lot of pressure on us, but this team is growing in accepting pressure.
"The blend between the senior and young players looks good.
"But the important thing was to do the job.
"It sounded easy: two home matches, win them, no problems.
"But anyone involved in football knows it's not as easy as that. The important thing for us is to keep working at our game."