Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard saved England from embarrassment against Trinidad and Tobago in the Group B clash in Nuremberg.
Sven-Goran Eriksson's men had been frustrated by the stubborn Soca Warriors, leading the England boss to give Wayne Rooney his World Cup debut as a 58th-minute substitute.
England looked more fluent with Rooney on the pitch, but it was Crouch who rose to head home David Beckham's cross with eight minutes remaining. Gerrard then found the top corner in injury-time.
As expected, Jamie Carragher replaced injured right-back Gary Neville in the only change from England's win against Paraguay, and it was the Liverpool defender who had the first effort on goal, although his second-minute shot lacked power.
England looked in control of the game and should have taken the lead after six minutes when Frank Lampard's effort swerved in the air and was parried by Shaka Hislop, with Michael Owen only managing to knee the rebound wide.
Trinidad looked less threatening in possession, with Aurtis Whitley having a tame effort which Paul Robinson fielded comfortably in the 13th minute.
Liverpool striker Crouch had already been within a whisker of connecting with a Rio Ferdinand cushioned header, then after 16 minutes he volleyed into the ground from Joe Cole's cross and Hislop clawed the ball wide.
The underdogs had Densill Theobald and Whitley booked in quick succession for fouls on the edge of the area but England skipper Beckham failed to create anything from the free-kicks.
Lampard had another effort from long distance drift just wide before Trinidad nearly shocked England in the 36th minute when Stern John almost headed in from Dwight Yorke's short corner.
Coventry striker John also had an effort superbly cleared off the line by John Terry in first-half stoppage-time as Trinidad sensed they could possibly upset the odds.
England finished the first half strongly, though, and Lampard volleyed over from Owen's cross, while Crouch mustered an ugly volley when he was found in space by Beckham.
Trinidad continued to frustrate England after the break, while Hislop was booked for time wasting at a goal-kick.
Crouch volleyed over after flicking up the ball and Owen headed wide from a Beckham free-kick, and it was the Newcastle striker's last contribution before he was taken off for Rooney in the 58th minute. Aaron Lennon was also brought on for Carragher.
England looked more urgent playing in a new formation with three in defence, although Lampard was booked for a trip on Brent Sancho.
Crouch headed an effort over in the 70th minute, while Lennon unsuccessfully claimed Yorke had handled one of his crosses four minutes later. Lampard had an effort sail over the bar from the corner and the Chelsea midfielder also had a clearer opportunity saved. Lampard then fired an effort wide.
Just when Trinidad scented an upset, Beckham received the ball from Lennon on the right and crossed for Crouch to bury a header.
Gerrard added garnish by firing into the top corner from 25 yards in stoppage time with his left foot.
Stern John then had a goal disallowed as it finished 2-0.