Frank Lampard celebrated claiming the England captain's armband by scoring the goal that secured victory against World Cup holders Spain at Wembley.
Lampard - leading his country in the absence of rested Chelsea team-mate John Terry - headed in from close range in the 49th minute after Darren Bent had struck the woodwork.
The world and European champions dominated possession and territory for long periods and almost equalised late on when David Villa struck a post and substitute Cesc Fabregas wasted a chance.
But England held on with real resilience for a win that will inject new reserves of confidence into Fabio Capello's side.
Capello was missing his son's wedding in Milan to take charge - yet his reshaped England team gave him cause for a double celebration as they overturned the odds in front of a delighted Wembley gallery.