England ease pressure on Capello
England arrived in Wales braced for high-intensity combat more akin to the Premier League than a Euro 2012 qualifier. They were greeted instead by the international equivalent of a testimonial.
Fabio Capello needed relief after a fortnight in which his inter-personal skills as well as his judgement were picked apart following his decision to reinstate John Terry as England captain at Rio Ferdinand's expense.
It was provided in abundance by an efficient England performance that saw the game won inside 14 minutes courtesy of goals from Frank Lampard and Darren Bent, plus the unwitting assistance of a Wales side that threw a bucket of icy water over the fire and passion of Cardiff's magnificently atmospheric Millennium Stadium.
Wales were so poor that it provided heavy perspective for anyone tempted to heap excessive praise on England, but Capello rightly took huge satisfaction from three of his most significant selections.
Aston Villa's Ashley Young won Lampard's penalty and provided the second on a plate for Bent to ensure the mindless jeering of both national anthems was as hostile as it got, despite all the talk of this being the "derby" of international fixtures.
Jack Wilshere looked as at home with England as Capello said he would be, playing soundly and sensibly to repay the faith the Italian publicly places in him.
Young was not initially offered a professional contract by Watford - photo: Getty.
And Scott Parker, finally given the holding midfield role that looked to have eluded him forever when he missed out on World Cup selection for South Africa, was the glue that held Capello's new 4-3-3 formation in place, allowing Lampard and Wilshere to augment an attacking trio of Bent, Young and Wayne Rooney.
Terry returned to the role of captain as if he had never been away, but this was one of his easiest England tasks, with pantomime jeering prior to kick-off representing the full extent of his discomfort.
All in all a good day's work for Capello off the field and his players on it. And what of Capello's system, a departure for a coach seemingly inseparable from a 4-4-2 format? It worked a treat - although England will face more testing examinations than the one presented by Gary Speed's timid Wales.
Young won the man-of-the match award for an all-round effort that made a strong case for further inclusion, particularly if Capello sticks with this formula.
It was a display that brought particular pleasure to former England and Watford manager Graham Taylor, who gave an intriguing insight into Young's character from his time at Vicarage Road before moving to Villa Park.
Taylor, a BBC Radio 5 Live summariser at the Millennium Stadium, told me: "I know Ashley from my Watford days. I think he has things to offer. I think he has the pace, the delivery and now it is up to him.
"I was the manager when he was in the Academy, so I knew about this young boy we had. When I left he was in the process of coming through at youth level and it was decided by the people there that he wasn't going to be big enough or strong enough to hold himself in professional football.
"There was a youth team coach called Chris Cummins who was adamant that Watford should not let him go. They didn't offer him a professional contract, so Ashley asked Watford if they would they let him come in and train on a full-time unpaid basis with the youth team from the start of the season until December, also playing for them.
"He did it for nothing and they then realised that he had developed into their best player at youth level and they offered him a professional contract. They then sold him to Villa for £8.5m going up to £9.6m and if he moves on Watford get 15% of anything over that figure."
Taylor added: "It was a real sign of Ashley's character and the man that really needs a lot of praise is Chris Cummins, the youth development officer I brought in on a full-time basis. He stuck up for Ashley and thought he should be signed. He made them realise that they had probably made a mistake and offered him that contract."
And Taylor believes there is more to come from Young, who is expected to quit Villa in the summer with Manchester United and Liverpool in pursuit.
He said: "He's quick but he has to learn if you're shaping to cross don't always kid people because your centre-forward is making a run.
"Sometimes he doesn't look up enough when he's in that crossing position because he is more intent on tricking the full-back than seeing where his centre-forward is. There were two or three occasions in Cardiff where Darren Bent made runs to the near post and the ball wasn't delivered."
Taylor was equally impressed with Parker's contribution, a continuation of the impressive form he has displayed for West Ham United this season.
"Scott's father passed away recently," said Taylor, "so it was a tremendous performance just to be out there and what he did really pleased me.
"Parker was the holding midfield player and I really hope Fabio has seen this because he had him with him for the squad of 30 before the World Cup but never picked him. By all accounts he hardly spoke to him in training then and yet this boy has had a first class season for West Ham.
"He was very important to England in that three in midfield. I think it is now going to be very difficult for Gareth Barry and I think Capello may yet have this Gerrard-Lampard conundrum again because if you're going to play Gerrard in that formation you would play him in Frank Lampard's position.
"Parker was protecting the five more attack-minded players if the ball broke down as well as shielding his two centre-backs. I just thought to myself: 'Fabio, you might have found a formation with the right players in it.' The modern day parlance is a 4-3-3 and in international football I think you need three players in the middle of the pitch instead of two because against better teams you just get outplayed."
For all the pleasure England will gain, the loss was another blow to Wales' morale and to manager Speed's hopes of reviving their fortunes. Four losses and no points in qualifiers tell the painful story.
True Wales were robbed of their finest player, Tottenham's Gareth Bale, through injury - but there was more than a Bale-sized gulf between the sides and Speed faces a mammoth task.
Capello was not complaining, however, and the win means he can now move the agenda on from the contentious issue of captaincy to the business of qualifying for Euro 2012, a task made easier by the comfortable dismissal of Wales.
And as a former England manager well-acquainted with the unique pressures of the role, Taylor said: "Fabio will be very happy. It was a competent, professional performance, although it was against a very poor Welsh side when judged by international standards.
"They won in a comfortable manner and it will take pressure off the manager. Having been in that position myself, when the criticism comes from all around it does have an effect on the players, the authorities, everyone and it would only have increased had they lost.
"He has been getting criticism, some of it deserved because of his handling of the captaincy situation, but this win has taken the pressure off him and he can think about the Ghana friendly and the game in June against Switzerland, which is so important."
And that is exactly what Capello will have wanted after the soap opera that has accompanied his every move in recent weeks.