Phil Vickery returned to save England from slumping to their worst run of Test results ever with the match-winning try against South Africa at Twickenham as the home side took a 23-21 win.
The Wasps prop had been out of international rugby for a year after undergoing a third back operation.
He came off the bench for the injured Andrew Sheridan and barged over the line with seven minutes remaining.
Despite a scrappy performance, England managed to avoid the ignominy of going down as the worst red rose side ever.
After seven straight defeats, one more would have been England's worst run of results in 135 years of international rugby - and for a long time it looked as if that would be the case.
Fly-half Butch James and winger Akona Ndungane opened up an 18-6 lead for the Springboks just two minutes into the second half.
But England managed an untidy second-half try for Mark Cueto before Vickery saved the day.
Andy Goode, on as a replacement for the injured Charlie Hodgson, landed the vital conversion for a win England's shambolic performance barely deserved.
The two sides meet again at Twickenham next weekend, but Hodgson and Sheridan are immediate doubts after both limped off with knee injuries.