Alastair Cook's men therefore have the opportunity to rewrite English cricket history at Edgbaston on Sunday, against either India or Sri Lanka, by becoming the first from this country to win a one-day international global trophy.
None has previously succeeded - although after bowling South Africa out for only 175 on a batsman's pitch, Cook's is the second England team to book a place in a home final in this same competition following their predecessors under Michael Vaughan nine years ago.
All today's hard work was done by the bowlers, James Anderson beginning the process with an exemplary new-ball spell of 7-1-11-2 and James Tredwell (three for 19) and eventually also Stuart Broad (three for 50) cashing in on their opponents' woes.
South Africa enhanced their unwanted reputation as big-game 'chokers', following their succession of previous failures in the knockout stages of International Cricket Council tournaments.
On a blameless pitch, but under swing-friendly cloud cover, they made most of their own troubles - collapsing to four for two and then 80 for eight before a record ninth-wicket stand of 99 between David Miller (56no) and Rory Kleinveldt.
In reply, in the absence of scoreboard pressure, Jonathan Trott (82no) was in his element as England confirmed their progression with more than 12 overs to spare.
Only Robin Peterson and Faf du Plessis had even hinted at a worthwhile top-order recovery for South Africa after Alastair Cook won the toss and then Anderson and Steven Finn removed both openers for a single between them.
Peterson and Du Plessis put on 41 for the third wicket. But after the next five fell for 31 runs, South Africa appeared in fast and terminal decline.
Miller and Kleinveldt had other ideas, calling an early powerplay in which they added 38 runs, and then taking toll of England's back-up seam and spin.
Broad returned, however, to have Kleinveldt caught by a diving Jos Buttler down the leg-side and then number 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe also edging behind to give England's wicketkeeper a world record-equalling six victims in the innings.
Colin Ingram was first to go for South Africa this morning, to the fifth ball of the match, a typically skilful piece of bowling by Anderson as he set the left-hander up with deliveries going across him and then snaked one back in to beat the forward push for lbw.
Finn further vindicated Cook's decision at the toss by eliminating the dangerous Hashim Amla in the second over.
At the ground where the South African last year made a national Test record 311 not out, this time he had just a single to his name when he tried to pull his bat out of the line but failed and instead got an involuntary edge behind to Buttler.
Finn was rusty, having been absent from England's calculations in this tournament until returning today with Tim Bresnan in Yorkshire where his first child is due to be born.
Cook therefore replaced one tall seamer with another as Broad came on at the pavilion end, but persisted with Anderson in pursuit of more precious wickets.
He was rewarded with a second lbw success for England's number one pace bowler, from round the wicket to Peterson.
Broad had South Africa captain AB de Villiers edging behind for a duck as he tried to thrash a wide ball through the off-side, and then Tredwell entered the equation with three wickets for eight runs. First he had JP Duminy chopping on to his stumps, then Du Plessis edging a cut behind and Chris Morris also caught by Buttler pushing forward.
In between, Ryan McLaren was a Tredwell victim in all but name too - officially run out, by Trott from slip, after he went out of his ground and missed as the ball trickled away off his thigh.
Miller did his best to resuscitate his team with a 45-ball 50. But when Broad stranded him by taking the last two wickets in two balls in only the 39th over, the match was England's to lose.
They never looked in the remotest danger of doing so either, even after losing Cook early - edging a pull behind at Morris.
Ian Bell was also gone before 50 was on the board, edging behind on the back foot in third-change Kleinveldt's first over.
But Trott, who would have been run out for 12 with a direct hit from Duminy at midwicket, and Joe Root settled any semblance of home nerves in an unhurried century stand.