England began a year they hope will end with a place booked for Brazil by beating the five-time World Cup winners 2-1 for only the fourth time in their history.
Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard were England's scorers, either side of a fine equaliser from Fred at the start of the second half.
However, there were far more plusses for manager Roy Hodgson than a first victory over Brazil since 1990. Jack Wilshere was outstanding alongside Steven Gerrard in midfield, and was deservedly named man of the match, Joe Hart saved a penalty and Theo Walcott's pace was a constant threat.
Brazil should have gone ahead when Wilshere blocked Oscar's cross with his hand in the area but Hart produced a magnificent double save to repel both Ronaldinho's penalty and the rebound before Neymar bundled the ball wide.
It was the first penalty save by an England keeper since 2004, so Hart deserved the luck he got when Neymar slid in at the far post to meet an Oscar cross from the other side which he somehow managed to scoop over from three yards.
Wilshere's astute pass set Danny Welbeck up midway through the first half, only for the Manchester United man to fire wide with his right foot when the acute angle demanded an effort with his left.
And it was Wilshere who sliced Brazil apart with the pass that provided Walcott with the chance Julio Cesar saved, only for Rooney to calmly stroke home the rebound. Cesar denied Walcott with another fine stop before the end of as promising a half in a friendly as England have had for some time.
It was undeniably good from England - but it took them just two second-half minutes to undo all that positive work. Gary Cahill's lack of control led to him losing possession in no-man's land, the ball rolled to Fred on the edge of the area and with virtually his first touch after being introduced as a half-time substitute, he fired into the corner.
More shambolic defending, this time started by Chris Smalling, provided Fred with another chance which he clipped against the bar two minutes later. Yet England's response was as impressive as their first-half display had been.
Cahill and Walcott were repelled by Cesar before Rooney nipped in to provide Lampard with an opportunity snaffled in sensational manner, taking him onto 27 England goals and once again raising question marks over Chelsea's desire to off-load him. It was enough to seal a rare win over such glamorous opposition.