England needed two late own goals from Japan defenders Marcus Tanaka and Yuji Nakazawa to gain a 2-1 victory in their final World Cup warm-up match in Graz.
Tanaka had stunned England by giving Japan a seventh-minute lead and Fabio Capello's side looked uncertain at the back.
But Tanaka levelled matters when deflecting in a cross from Joe Cole and then Nakazawa suffered the same fate from a centre by Ashley Cole.
David James was handed his first England start for 13 months whilse three Chelsea players - Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry - returned with Tom Huddlestone handed his first start in a bid to make a late claim to be part of the final squad of 23 for South Africa, which will be confirmed on Tuesday.
After seven minutes, Japan stung England by taking the lead in their first meaningful attack. Glen Johnson conceded a corner but then failed to pick up Tanaka when he ran onto Yasuhito Endo's low cross into the box. His first-time shot was well struck and flew past James into the corner of the net.
It was 19 minutes before England created their first worthwhile opening with Kawashima blocking a shot from Aaron Lennon after good play by Rooney and Huddlestone, while Darren Bent also passed up a chance to make his mark when he headed wide.
Capello made five changes at half-time with Joe Hart, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole replacing James, Johnson, Huddlestone, Walcott and Bent respectively.
Lampard squandered the chance to put England back on level terms after 55 minutes when his free-kick was handled in the area by Honda's raised hand. The Chelsea midfielder stepped up to take the spot-kick but Kawashima dived away to his right to keep out his low shot.
England finally drew level after 73 minutes but it needed an own goal from Tanaka to bring them on level terms. Joe Cole cut in from the right and Tanaka only succeeded in heading past Kawashima.
Then in the 84th minute a second own goal, from Yuji Nakazawa, saw England finally go in front. This time the cross came from Ashley Cole on the left and Nakazawa's flick at full stretch turned the ball wide of Kawashima.
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