By 1965, Banks was indisputably the first-choice England goalkeeper. He was settling into the form of his life which would last for the next seven years; agile and alert, he was frequently seen making amazing reflex saves and possessed flawless positional sense and reading of attackers' movements and instincts.
When the World Cup began, Banks was in goal as England got through their group containing Uruguay, Mexico and France, drawing 0–0 with the former and clinching 2–0 victories over the latter. Banks was not greatly tested, but it was hugely encouraging that he emerged from the group with three clean sheets from three games, a trend that continued when England beat a physical Argentina side 1–0 in the last eight, with Geoff Hurst scoring with a header.
Bobby Charlton scored twice in the semi final against Portugal before a late penalty was conceded by Jack Charlton handling the ball. Banks was finally beaten after 43 minutes when Eusébio put away the spot kick to his right. That said, England had won 2–1 and were in the final, where West Germany awaited.
It was England who dominated the final but it was Banks who was beaten first. A weak header from Ray Wilson handed a chance to Helmut Haller whose shot was not fierce but was on target and needed dealing with. Banks thought Jack Charlton was going to clear; Charlton in turn thought Banks had it covered. Neither went for it as a result, and the ball crept in the corner. England equalised through a Geoff Hurst header within six minutes and went ahead late in the second half through Martin Peters.
Banks had little to do during the second half but his known powers of concentration were required when Jack Charlton gave away a dubious free kick 30 yards from goal. Banks duly organised a defensive wall and got into position. Lothar Emmerich slammed the ball into the wall, the ball ricocheted across goal and Banks struggled to follow it across his six yard box, such was the speed and unpredictability of its movement as it took deflections and swipes. Ultimately German defender Wolfgang Weber reached it at the far post and swept it into the net with Banks diving in vain to get his palms to the ball. The final whistle went seconds later to send the game into extra time.
England took the lead in extra time with that hotly debated second goal from Hurst. Banks not troubled again until the final minute, when he saved a shot from Siggy Held and moments later could only watch as Uwe Seeler lunged for the ball and missed. Hurst then scored his hat-trick goal and the game was over. Banks had 33 England caps and was a world champion. But his career at club level was shortly to take an interesting and unexpected turn.