He headed into Euro '92, which would be his last major tournament before announcing his international retirement later that summer, with 48 goals to his name.
Yet, the skipper was provided with very few goalscoring opportunities as Graham Taylor's men drew their first two group matches against Denmark and France 0-0.
Consequently, England headed into their final group encounter against the hosting Swedes 23 years ago today knowing that only a victory would do if they were to secure their spot in the semi-finals of the tournament.
But rather than press home their advantage, England found it difficult to keep hold of possession, so it was little surprise when Jan Eriksson scored an equaliser shortly after the restart.
Then would come one of a number of negative moments that appeared to define Taylor's three-year stint at the helm. In the 62nd minute, he decided to take off the record-hunting Lineker, replacing him with Alan Smith. As a furious-looking Lineker trudged off the pitch, he didn't acknowledge his manager.
Nevertheless, a winning goal for England would have extended their interest into the last four and would have also provided Lineker with another chance to top his country's goalscoring chart.
Tomas Brolin - the future Leeds United midfielder - had other ideas, though, because with just eight minutes remaining in Solna, he exchanged passes with Martin Dahlin, before firing his rising shot from the edge of the area into the top corner of Chris Woods's net.
With England heading home, a lot of the focus from fans and the media honed in on Taylor and the retiring Lineker, with the latter receiving the majority of the support.
Speaking more recently about his decision, Taylor said: "Taking Gary off was a pure footballing decision but, because we lost, unfortunately the media turned it into a decision that was between him and me personally.
"We needed to hold the ball up because Sweden were just coming at us and they were a good side. That's why I got Alan Smith on."
Meanwhile, talking to FourFourTwo, Lineker added: "I never really held it against [Taylor]. He probably did me a favour by making me a martyr. We were a pretty crappy team, probably England's worst of recent times.
"We were poor in that game and weren't creating chances. If he'd left me on I'd have been pilloried with the rest of them after the tournament. Instead, because he took me off, it was turned against him."
Sweden: Ravelli; Nilsson, Eriksson, Andersson, Bjorklund; Ingesson, Thern, Schwarz, Limpar (Ekstrom); Brolin, Dahlin
England: Woods; Batty, Keown, Walker, Pearce; Daley, Webb, Palmer, Platt, Sinton (Merson); Lineker (Smith)