After a dire first half that left those in the stadium wishing they’d stayed home to watch Strictly, the home side fell behind to a 57th-minute own goal from Jordan Henderson.
That sparked England into action though with Wayne Rooney making an incisive run into the penalty area and getting brought down, before blasting home from the spot for the equaliser.
Danny Welbeck found the first of his brace with an unconvincing bouncing finish on 66 minutes before a cool 72nd minute finish wrapped things up.
England manager Roy Hodgson took encouragement from parts of his side’s performance.
“In the first half it wasn’t one of our better performances. We needed to do more but I think we saw that in the second half,” Hodgson told BBC Radio’s 5Live.
“I think we were good value for the victory and had several outstanding individual performances.
“In a football match there’s two teams, there’s an opposition working hard to stop you. We’re not disappointed in any way about our performance.”
England skipper Rooney, who was presented with a gold cap for his 100th international before the match, said “it was a good day in the end”. “We had to show character and that will be good for us in the team. Since the World Cup we haven’t faced that.
“It really woke us up and we went and showed what a good side we are. For the penalty I was trying to get a yard and I was clipped, it was a clear penalty.
“Danny Welbeck doesn’t have anything to prove. He’s getting better with every goal and every game, he deserves all the credit. We have a winning mentality at the minute.”
It was also a big night for San Marino who in drawing 0-0 at home to Estonia picked up their first ever Euro qualifying point after 61 losses.
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