The US rock band stormed through a number of hit songs during the hour-long performance – their first appearance at the festival since 2017.
Friday’s bill was topped by Arctic Monkeys, who shut down questions they would be unable to perform with a set full of hits.
Earlier this week the band announced frontman Alex Turner had acute laryngitis, which forced them to cancel their show in Marlay Park, Dublin, on Wednesday.
But the Sheffield rockers delivered a smash selection of songs, despite minimal crowd interaction from Turner, revisiting their chart-topping back catalogue as well as tracks from their 2022 release The Car.
The singer led the show in his classic suave style, donning a black suit and white open collar shirt paired with dark sunglasses, as the band rattled through songs including Brianstorm, Crying Lightning, Arabella and Pretty Visitors.
Arctic Monkeys rounded out their headline set with a slowed-down version I Wanna Be Yours before finishing strongly with I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.
“We’re going to leave you now, but thank you for having us. Something tells me that you’re going to be okay – Goodnight,” Turner told the crowd as he exited the stage.
This is the band’s third time headlining the festival after topping the bill in 2007 and 2013.
Despite the anticipation ahead of the British band’s headline set, one of Friday’s standout moments was Foo Fighters’ appearance.
There had been high speculation the band would take to the main stage on Friday from 6.15pm in a slot which was billed under the name The Churnups.
An hour before the slot, the band posted a photo of flags within the festival crowd, one with the phrase Churn It Up brandished across it, and tagged the post #Glastonbury2023.
The 2023 performance marks 25 years since Foo Fighters first performed at Glastonbury.
Famous faces watching the show included Sir Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney, US rock guitarist Slash and Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, as well as Rick Astley and Kate Hudson.
Kicking off with All My Life, Grohl told crowd: “We only have one hour so we gotta make sure we fit in all the songs we can.”
They went on to play a collection of hit songs including Best Of You and The Pretender.
Finishing off the latter, Grohl said: “You guys knew it was us this whole time, you knew it.
“We’re not good at secrets.
Later on, Grohl took a pause to introduce the band members, including Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Rami Jaffee, before welcoming his daughter Violet to the stage – who he described as his “favourite singer in the world”.
He also made special mention to drummer Josh Freese, who he said was “the man who helped us to be here today”, following the death of Hawkins last year.
The drummer died suddenly in March, aged 50, while the group were on the South American leg of their world tour.
Ahead of their last song of the night – Everlong – Grohl said: “Well it’s nice to be here for 58 mins and 30 seconds.
“We usually play this one as our way to say goodbye because we never like to say goodbye because I figure that if you guys come back we’ll come back soon.
“But I already know we’re coming back for a whole f****** tour but I would like to thank every one of you for sticking around for the last 28 years.
He added: “I would like to dedicate this song to the Mr Taylor Hawkins.
“So let’s sing this one loud, we’re missing Taylor.”
British rock duo Royal Blood – which consists of bassist and singer Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher – followed Foo Fighters on the mainstage.
The pair appeared appreciative of the crowd, with Kerr saying: “Thank you so much Glastonbury, I have to tell you never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we’d get to do shit like this.”
It comes after Kerr faced an online backlash over his behaviour onstage during a show at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend earlier this month.
The singer had called the audience “pathetic” and left with his middle fingers in the air as he departed the stage, having previously berated them for their perceived lack of enthusiasm.
Earlier on Friday at Glastonbury, Irish musician Hozier performed his own surprise set on the Woodsies stage, previously named the John Peel stage, telling audiences it was a “joy” to play the “little secret slot”.
Fans arriving to see US pop-rock duo Sparks were also given a “super special treat” following a surprise appearance by Cate Blanchett.
The Oscar-winning actress joined Ron and Russell Mael for a performance of their recent track The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte.
She appeared on stage, wearing a yellow suit, green glasses and red, over-ear headphones, to roars from the crowd – the same outfit she had worn for the Sparks music video – to bust out a series of energetic dance moves.
The third day of the festival also hosted film screenings, theatre and circus performances and a debate entitled Solidarity With Iran which included British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned there for six years.
Saturday night will see US rockers Guns N’ Roses headline, after the original line-up of Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan reunited in 2015.
Sir Elton John, 76, will close the festival on Sunday night for what has been billed as the final UK show of his mammoth farewell tour.
Ahead of Foo Fighters’ surprise set on Friday, a tribute was paid to the three victims of the Nottingham attacks earlier this month.
The images of Grace O’Malley-Kumar, Barnaby Webber and Ian Coates were displayed on the screens of the Pyramid Stage, along with messages written by the parents of two of the victims.
“Hold no hate for race, religion, colour or culture,” read the statement from Emma Webber.
From Sanjoy Kumar, father to Grace, the message read: “You have to love everyone.”
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