Mario Mandzukic claimed an unwanted piece of history with the first own goal in a World Cup final to give France the lead against the run of play, but Ivan Perisic levelled things up 10 minutes later.
A controversial VAR-awarded penalty saw Antoine Griezmann restore France's lead heading into half time, and second-half strikes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe effectively wrapped up the trophy for Les Bleus.
Find out how all of the action unfolded in world football's biggest game courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.
It is a tournament which has contained shocks galore, wonder goals and talking points throughout and, whatever happens in game 64 of 64 today, it will go down as one of the very best World Cups ever.
France will be the heavy favourites to come away with the crown in this match, but Croatia have already upset plenty of odds to make it this far and they are now just 90 minutes away from the greatest moment in their nation's footballing history.
We have a bumper two-hour buildup for you today, so let's get started with a look at the French!
It s no surprise to see France at this stage, though, having also reached the final of Euro 2016 with their supremely-talented young squad. Les Bleus boast some of the world's best young players and seem to have strength in depth in every single position, so victory today could well be the start of a period of dominance for them.
They are still haunted by that Euro 2016 final defeat at the hands of Portugal on home soil, but victory today would finally exorcise those demons.
Should Les Bleus achieve that feat then they would be only the sixth nation to win the World Cup on more than one occasion - following in the footsteps of Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina and Uruguay, with only the first three of those lifting the trophy more than twice.
It has taken a while for France to become a genuine footballing superpower - with brief exceptions in the Just Fontaine and Michel Platini eras - but they are very much among the leading lights now.
This will be the third time France have been involved in football's biggest game over the past two decades, of course winning in 1998 before losing to Italy on penalties in the 2006 final. Les Bleus are only the sixth country to have reached the World Cup final at least three times, following in the footsteps of Germany, Brazil, Italy, Argentina and Netherlands.
France have also reached two European Championship finals during this golden 20 years too - in 2000 and 2016 - and this will be their sixth final at a major tournament overall, winning three of their previous five.
While victory today would certainly rival that success, it is unlikely to surpass it considering 1998 came on home soil and was so important for the country for a number of different reasons.
You can relive that incredible final here:
After the elation of winning the trophy for the first time in 1998, France went into the 2002 tournament as both defending world and European champions. Defeat to Senegal in the opening match set the tone, though, and they were eliminated in the group stages without even scoring a goal.
Four years later Zidane's France were back in the final, losing on penalties to Italy, but 2010 saw them slump to yet another group-stage exit. Indeed, things got so bad in 2010 that the players even went on strike at one stage of the tournament, so to have reached this stage eight years after that is an achievement in itself.
Excluding penalty shootouts - namely the 2006 final defeat to Italy - France's quarter-final defeat to eventual winners Germany four years ago is their only loss in their last 14 World Cup knockout games - a run which includes 11 wins.
Throughout the tournament Deschamps has been questioned about how it feels to be potentially only the third man to lift the trophy as both a player and a manager, but now he is just 90 minutes away from following in the footsteps of Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany.
Indeed, Deschamps would only be the second man - after Beckenbauer - to have won the World Cup as both a captain and a manager, and his overall record in the tournament as coach is impressive, with eight wins from 11 games.
Zidane had earlier given France the lead with an audacious Panenka penalty before Materazzi - of all people - equalised with a thumping header, but it was a sorry end to an illustrious career and Italy eventually went on to get their hands on the trophy via a penalty shootout.
Well, as if often the case with the top teams, it took Les Bleus a little while to get going at this summer's tournament and they were far from convincing during the group stages, despite finishing top of Group C, two points clear of second-placed Denmark.
France's World Cup began with a 2-1 victory over Australia which was shrouded in controversy and a bit of luck, with Griezmann being awarded and then scoring a contentious penalty via VAR. Australia hit back with a penalty of their own shortly afterwards, but then a hugely fortuitous own goal handed France a winning start to the tournament.
A narrow 1-0 win over Peru followed in their second game, before Denmark held them to a goalless draw in their final group game to seal both sides' places in the last 16.
Deschamps's side led, then trailed and then led again in a match littered with wonder goals, and it was also particularly notable for the performance of Kylian Mbappe, who scored two goals and won a penalty.
France have shown more defensive resilience in their two matches since then, though, battling to a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the last 16 courtesy of a set-piece goal and a goalkeeping error, and then beating Belgium 1-0 in the semi-finals with another set-piece goal.
France arguably dispatched of the tournament's most impressive team in the semi-finals when they beat Belgium in an engrossing semi-final. Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said after the game that France's tactics were "anti-football" - despite France attempting 10 more shots than the Belgians - but I'm sure no-one in France will mind a repeat performance today if it ends up with the same result.
Can they add one final highlight - and the most important of all - onto that reel?
We have some team news for you! France and Croatia have wasted no time in releasing the team sheets, and it doesn't look like there will be any Ronaldo-in-1998-esque drama today. Both sides are as expected!
FRANCE STARTING XI: Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Pogba, Kante, Matuidi; Griezmann, Giroud, Mbappe
Subs: N'Zonzi, Tolisso, Kimpembe, Lemar, Dembele, Mandanda, Rami, Fekir, Sidibe, Thauvin, Mendy, Areola
CROATIA STARTING XI: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Modric, Brozovic; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic
Subs: Pivaric, Kramaric, Corluka, Badelj, Livakovic, Kovacic, Kalinic, Jedvaj, Bradaric, Caleta-Car, Pjaca
Well, as expected France are unchanged from their semi-final victory over Belgium, with Deschamps suffering from no new injury concerns ahead of this match.
Starting from the back, the French defence has been hugely impressive so far at this tournament, with Pavard establishing himself as one of the breakthrough stars of the World Cup and the likes of Varane, Umtiti and Hernandez only increasing their reputations.
Behind them if Hugo Lloris, who may be beginning to dream of holding the trophy aloft as captain. Lloris came into this World Cup off the back of a shaky season with Tottenham by his standards, but he has pulled off some incredible saves throughout - including one to deny Spurs teammate Alderweireld in the semi-finals - and is very much in the running for goalkeeper of the tournament.
N'Golo Kante in particular has been impressive throughout - as he almost always is, in fairness - and he could be crucial in stopping Modric and co today. Paul Pogba was criticised regularly for his performances for Manchester United last season but has enjoyed a really good tournament too, most notably for his discipline in tracking back when needed to help out the defence.
Blaise Matuidi missed one game through suspension in the quarter-finals but returned against Belgium and was one of the best players on the park, although he was a minor injury doubt for this match following his heavy collision with Hazard. Matuidi has been cleared of concussion, though, and starts again here.
The latter of those has struggled in comparison to the others at this World Cup, and remarkably has failed to register a single shot on target so far, despite having 13 efforts on goal - the most without hitting the target at a single World Cup since records began in 1966.
Mbappe and Griezmann are both on three goals apiece, though, and the latter has also registered two assists meaning that if he becomes only the second man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final - after Geoff Hurst - then he would pip Harry Kane to the Golden Boot today. Griezmann has scored or assisted 11 goals in nine knockout games at major tournaments, which is more than Zidane, Platini or any other French players over the past 50 years.
Even he has had to play second fiddle to Mbappe this summer, though, with the 19-year-old favourite to win the Golden Ball. A goal today would see him become only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final - company he would share with only Pele - and he is already the highest-scoring teenager at a World Cup since Pele hit six in 1958.
Here is Mbappe's best performance of the tournament so far, against Argentina in the last 16.
Fatigue did not appear to be an issue in the last four, though - indeed, Croatia seemed to get stronger as the match wore on - and manager Zlatko Dalic has insisted that it will not be an issue today either.
There were a number of minor injury problems in the wake of Wednesday's match, but those have all been sorted now and Dalic is able to name an unchanged XI. Ivan Perisic was one of those to be struggling - even missing training on Friday - but the Inter Milan forward, who was arguably the man of the match against England, starts today.
Further back, there will be plenty of eyes on Dejan Lovren this afternoon after he declared himself one of the best defenders in world football, and today he will become only the second player in history - after Thierry Henry in 2006 - to have played in the Champions League final for an English club and the World Cup final in the same year. Even so, making such a bold statement just days before coming up against Kylian Mbappe is very brave indeed!
Marcelo Brozovic keeps his place in the team after impressing in that win over Gareth Southgate's side, forming that dangerous midfield alongside Rakitic and Modric once again.
It is Modric who makes this Croatian team tick, though, creating 16 chances at this World Cup, which is twice as many as any of his teammates. Modric is perhaps Mbappe's main challenger for the Golden Ball, and there has even been talk of him winning the Ballon d'Or should he couple his Champions League title with the World Cup trophy today.
The biggest challenge for Croatia this afternoon may be breaking this French defence down; they have kept four clean sheets from their six games at this World Cup and remarkably have only conceded from open play in one of those - the manic 4-3 victory over Argentina.
Those same defenders have been hugely important at the other end too, with Pavard, Varane and Umtiti all having got themselves on the scoresheet in the knockout rounds. Incidentally, the last time France had three defenders score at a World Cup was in 1998, when they lifted the trophy.
The first goal could be very important today, then, as Croatia are used to coming from behind, so if they were to take the lead then both they and France would be in a rather unfamiliar position.
France do know how to get the job done, though - they are unbeaten in their last 10 matches across all competitions, winning eight of those since a March defeat to Colombia, which is their only loss in 18. Indeed, another win today would make it four on the bounce for Les Bleus for the first time in more than two years.
Croatia are appearing in their first ever World Cup final and are bidding to become only the ninth different team to lift the trophy, as the 13th different team to make it to the final. Indeed, Croatia are looking for their first major trophy of any kind, with their previous best finish coming in 1998 when they won the third-place playoff against Netherlands.
Croatia actually lost to France in the semi-finals of that competition, but it was their first ever appearance at a World Cup as an independent nation, so even finishing third - and boasting the top scorer in Davor Suker - was a monumental achievement.
Making it this far has been described as a sporting miracle already, and should they manage to beat France and lift the trophy then it could well go down alongside Greece winning the Euros in 2004 and Leicester City winning the Premier League as one of the great sporting stories.
That said, while Croatia are a small country - they would be the second-smallest to ever win the World Cup after Uruguay - they do possess some genuine world-class players, so in terms of personnel it is perhaps less surprising than the above two examples.
Indeed, while they burst onto the scene in 1998 with their third-place finish, Croatia have failed to even make it past the group stages in any of their subsequent appearances at a World Cup prior to this summer. They were eliminated at the first hurdle in 2002, 2006 and 2014, failing to even qualify for the tournament in 2010.
The good news for Croatia is that the last two teams to have appeared in a World Cup for the first time have both gone on to win it - France themselves in 1998 and Spain in 2010.
Arguably the highlight of their entire World Cup came in their second game, though, as Croatia ran out 3-0 winners over the might of Argentina - Lionel Messi and all - with two of those goals coming in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Croatia then closed out the group stages by maintaining their 100% record with a 90th-minute winner against Iceland, ensuring that they finish top of Group D ahead of second-placed Argentina.
Indeed, a penalty shootout was required in the last 16 and quarter-finals as Croatia dispatched of Denmark and then hosts Russia, and they needed to overcome difficult moments in both games prior to the shootout too.
Denmark took the lead after only one minute in the last 16, while Croatia also missed a penalty in normal time in that match, and Russia netted a 115th-minute equaliser to force their quarter-final tie into extra time. If there is one thing this Croatia do possess, it is plenty of character.
Relive that memorable Croatian performance below:
England took the lead through Kieran Trippier after only five minutes and could well have gone on to put the game to bed before half time had Kane and Lingard converted further chances, but Croatia held on until the interval and were much the better team from that point onwards.
Ivan Perisic levelled things up after 68 minutes to send the game into extra time, and Croatia just seemed to get stronger and stronger and Mandzukic finally took advantage of England's increasingly-tired defending to sweep home a 109th-minute winner.
It must be said that they have had a fairly kind route through to the final, though, playing Denmark, Russia and England in the knockout rounds, none of whom are in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings.
Arguably Croatia's biggest test so far came against Argentina in the group stages, and they passed that with flying colours courtesy of a 3-0 victory.
The way this tournament has opened up, with most of the favourites being eliminated by other teams, has been hugely fortuitous for Croatia and they will surely never get a better chance to lift the trophy than they do now.
That is especially the case considering that their own 'golden generation' will arguably be too old in Qatar 2022, with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic all now the wrong side of 30.
Conceding an equaliser deep into extra time will always make it more difficult to pick yourself back up for the penalty shootout, but Croatia managed that to end the home side's World Cup run.
Croatia's 12 goals have come from eight different players, which means that they have goals throughout their team, but one area they do need to improve is at set pieces. Dalic's side have conceded from a penalty, throw-in, indirect free kick and a direct free kick at this summer's World Cup, meaning that four of the five goals they have conceded have come from set pieces.
The Croats had only won one of their previous seven World Cup outings prior to this tournament, but have now won six in a row including their penalty shootout and extra-time triumphs.
Croatia can perhaps expect today's game to go the same way too as the last three World Cup finals have all gone to extra time.
If you have the stomach, then you can relive the highlights of that match here:
Croatia have done brilliantly to make it this far in the tournament, but France are a step up from what they have faced so far and would have certainly taken a match against Croatia in the final if it was offered to them before the tournament. Les Bleus have been solid defensively and seem well suited to stopping Croatia's best players, so we're going for a French win.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: France 2-0 Croatia
France have won three of them - in 1998, 1999 and 2000 - but the last two have both ended as draws, in 2004 and 2011. The most recent of those saw a goalless draw in March 2011, but hopefully we will not be in for a third successive World Cup final to end 0-0 after 90 minutes.
Current France manager Didier Deschamps played the full 90 minutes in that match, but it was most notable for Lilian Thuram scoring twice as France came from a goal down to win 2-1. Remarkably, those two Thuram goals were the only ones he scored throughout his 142 international caps.
There is no doubt that this is by far and away the most important meeting between these two sides, though, and also the most important match in Croatia's history.
FRANCE STARTING XI:Lloris; Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Hernandez; Pogba, Kante, Matuidi; Griezmann, Giroud, Mbappe
CROATIA STARTING XI: Subasic; Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic; Rakitic, Modric, Brozovic; Perisic, Mandzukic, Rebic
Mandzukic was the hero in extra time against England, but he is the villain now as he inadvertently glances Griezmann's free kick into his own net! The striker could not get high enough to clear the danger and just helped the ball on its way past a helpless Subasic.
OWN GOAL! Griezmann delivers the ball 30-yards from goal. In a desperate attempt to get something on it Mandzukic flicks the ball into his own net pic.twitter.com/2HyfY4RHGO— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 15, 2018
France are unable to clear their lines from a cross into the box and Vida knocks the ball back to the Inter Milan man, who skips away from his marker before lashing his finish past Lloris, via a deflection off the thigh of Varane.
Nine of the 10 last WC Finals have been won by the team to score the opening goal. The exception: #FRA penalty loss vs ITA in 2006.— Gracenote Live (@GracenoteLive) July 15, 2018
The Atletico Madrid man waits for Subasic to go, and then just rolls it into the opposite corner calmly. Advantage France again!
It is France who lead the way after the halfway stage, but both of their goals have had an air of controversy about them. Croatia have arguably been the better team so far, but they will once again have to come from behind if they are to cap this dream run to the final by winning the trophy.
The initial decision to award a free kick was a controversial one, with Griezmann going down easily before dusting himself off to take the free kick himself. The striker's delivery was a good one, and Mandzukic could only glance his defensive header past his own keeper and into the top corner.
Perisic had been one of Croatia's brightest stars of the opening stages so it was perhaps fitting that he got the goal, skipping past Kante before firing the ball into the far corner beyond Lloris via a deflection from Varane.
It was a harsh decision even via VAR, with Perisic being adjudged to have handled the ball behind Matuidi, who should have done better at the near post himself. Griezmann stepped up to the resulting spot kick, though, and made no mistake.
Pogba starts it all off with a lovely ball through for Mbappe, who dips inside before cutting the ball back for Griezmann. Griezmann then tees up Pogba, who sees his first effort blocked before curling his second attempt past a wrong-footed Subasic with his left boot.
GOAL! Griezmann lays the ball off to Pogba on the edge of the box, his first shot is blocked but the ball comes back to him and he curls a measured left-footed strike into the corner pic.twitter.com/kjcJRmwVEV— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 15, 2018
It is a brilliant goal from the youngster too. He is given the time and space to pick his spot from 25 yards out, and he drills a low strike into the bottom corner past the keeper.
It is an absolute horror show from Hugo Lloris in the final of the World Cup as he takes far too long on the ball and tries a suicidal pass past Mandzukic, who just sticks out a leg to send the ball into the net. It is one of the most bizarre goals you will ever see at this level!
GOAL! Teenage sensation Mbappe picks the ball up 25 yards out and unleashes a pinpoint strike low into the bottom corner pic.twitter.com/cw6PkmgY5p— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 15, 2018
5 – Mario Mandzukic has become just the 5th player to score in both World Cup and European Cup/Champions League finals, after Ferenc Puskas, Zoltan Czibor, Gerd Muller & Zinedine Zidane. Platform.#WorldCupFinal #WorldCup #FRA #CRO pic.twitter.com/jc7TNR7YRG— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 15, 2018
GOAL! A nightmare for Lloris. Umtiti plays the ball back to his goalkeeper, he dallies on the ball and Mandzukic closes down his attempted pass to pull one back pic.twitter.com/OcZW1bmuRL— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 15, 2018
It is one of the best finals in recent memory at the end of one of the best World Cups we have ever seen, and it will be Hugo Lloris who lifts the trophy at the end of it all.
This final had a bit of everything - an own goal, a VAR-awarded penalty and a goalkeeping howler - and it was a fitting end to what has been a fantastic month of football.
Further goals from Pogba and Mbappe saw France effectively put the game to bed before Lloris's howler gifted Mandzukic a goal and gave Croatia a glimmer of hope, but France safely saw the game out.
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole throughout this unforgettable World Cup, and congratulations to France for winning it with a thrilling victory over Croatia in the final today. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!