England survived a strong second-half challenge from Wales to put themselves on the brink of qualification for the European Championships in 2012.
Ashley Young's solitary goal in the 35th minute was enough to secure victory on another frustrating night at Wembley for Fabio Capello's side.
The Manchester United winger fired home from Stewart Downing's low-cross, but there were few clear-cut chances for the Three Lions in the rest of the match.
Instead, they fell to the visitors, with Robert Earnshaw missing the best of them after coming off the bench.
An Aaron Ramsey free-kick was headed back across goal to Earnshaw, but from less than six-yards out the striker inexplicably fired over.
Joe Hart then denied Chris Gunter as the Red Dragon strived to equalise, but England held on and now need a point against Montenegro to ensure their progression to the finals.