Joe Cole helped England coach Fabio Capello avoid a first Wembley defeat as his late equaliser earned a barely-deserved 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
Despite Cole's intervention it was still a dispiriting experience for Capello, who had to deal with the revelation that the man who hired him – the FA's chief executive Brian Barwick – is set to quit his post at Soho Square.
While Barwick, who is believed to have a strained relationship with new FA chairman Lord Triesman, watched from the stands, England were booed off after another lacklustre display.
They had to come from behind twice as Wes Brown cancelled out Milan Baros's early strike and then Cole came off the bench to level after Marek Jankulovski's stunning free-kick.
With World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia looming next month, Capello is no closer to solving the problems he inherited from Steve McClaren.
The midfield remains as confused as ever, they still look toothless in attack for long periods and the only two serious opponents England have faced in Capello's five-match reign – France and now the Czechs – have both outplayed them.
After four games of experimentation, this was the final dress rehearsal for Capello before the World Cup campaign begins and he opted for his strongest available team.
In the absence of Michael Owen, it was Jermain Defoe who partnered Wayne Rooney, while Steven Gerrard lined up on the left of midfield to allow Frank Lampard to play alongside Gareth Barry in the centre.
The banks of empty seats around Wembley suggested England's long-suffering supporters are as impatient for the serious stuff to start as Capello.
Torrential rain that lashed north London hardly encouraged fans to pay on the day and the stay-away were vindicated as England went through the motions.
Petr Rada was in charge of the Czech team for the first time following Karel Bruckner's resignation. His players were clearly keen to make a good impression.
They moved the ball about sharply from the moment Stanislav Vlcek shot just wide from Jankulovski's deflected cross in the seventh minute.
Rooney lofted a pass out to Gerrard and he cut inside to test Petr Cech with a powerful low shot that the goalkeeper parried to safety.
Rio Ferdinand wouldn't be human if he wasn't affected by losing the captaincy race and the Manchester United defender's mind appeared to be elsewhere when he allowed Baros room to whip in a shot that forced David James to save at full-stretch.
But it was John Terry, who had won the captaincy race ahead of Ferdinand, who allowed Baros to put the Czechs ahead in the 22nd minute.
Terry couldn't handle Baros's power and cunning as the striker collected Radek Sirl's and worked space for a shot that deflected off Ashley Cole and past James.
England raised the tempo after that shock and Jermain Defoe tested Cech with a rising shot from Gerrard's clever pass.
While David Beckham remains part of the England set-up they will always be able to conjure a goal from a set-piece and so it proved again on the stroke of half-time.
Beckham whipped in a corner to the near-post, where Brown rose above Tomas Ujfalusi to claim his first England goal with a powerful downwards header past Cech.
Capello sent on Emile Heskey for Defoe at half-time but he was soon standing stone-faced on the touchline as the visitors regained the lead in the 48th minute.
AC Milan left-back Jankulovski showed that Beckham wasn't the only dead-ball specialist on the pitch as he left James rooted to the spot with a superb left-foot free-kick that arrowed into the far corner.
England snatched a draw their scrappy play barely deserved in stoppage time when Cole poked home after a goalmouth scramble.
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