England take backward steps against Wales
If Robert Earnshaw had applied a striker's finish rather than a fly-half's when lifting the ball over the bar from only five yards late on, then England's trip to Montenegro for their final qualifier may have taken on an even more hazardous appearance.
Instead, Earnshaw's hopeless late miss allowed Ashley Young's first-half goal to give England a generous reward for a stodgy, shapeless performance and leaves them needing a point in Podgorica to reach Poland and Ukraine.
The width, movement and threat that accounted for Bulgaria so easily in Sofia was replaced by the usual bout of Wembley nerves and uncertainty.
This was a grim spectacle that left Capello grateful to get out with the points and plan for Montenegro.
Rooney missed the support he had enjoyed against Bulgaria Photo: Getty Images
Wayne Rooney will be central to all England's ambitions if they reach Euro 2012 and Capello must learn the lessons of the last two games and take them away with him next summer.
In Sofia he was helped by the pace, running and support of Young, Theo Walcott and Stewart Downing with Gareth Barry and Scott Parker the shield. At Wembley he was left isolated and old problems resurfaced. He became frustrated with team-mates, chased balls into uncharted, unthreatening territory and even ended up near his own corner flag at one point.
England barely created a chance worthy of the name, Young's goal apart, and Capello's claim that his players lacked confidence in front of the Wembley crowd betrayed a worrying shortage of mental strength.
Frank Lampard's England obituaries required ripping up instantly as he was recalled after being dropped against Bulgaria, but he did not present a compelling case for further inclusion in the starting line-up here.
The glee expressed at his apparent demise in some quarters continues to mystify and is insulting to a fine professional, but at 33 the reality is that he is nearing the end of his international career.
He was not alone in his anonymity at Wembley, but the fact Capello effectively chose to use him as a human shield against a possible suspension for Parker underlined his place in the pecking order.
James Milner was neither here nor there. He is regarded as valuable for his versatility but it must also be backed up with performances. Downing does a similar job but has done it better this season.
And as Capello rightly pointed out, England's habit of playing in 20-minute spells might see them through against a game but limited Wales, but will attract heavy punishment against better sides and more ruthless strikers than Earnshaw.
So with Euro 2012 qualification close to being assured, where do England currently stand?
It would be wildly optimistic, fantasy even, to suggest at this stage that England will pose a huge threat to the major powers such as Spain, Holland and Germany. They have been there before - and come back disappointed.
But, despite the slipshod nature of Tuesday's display, there are also positive signs that can be unearthed from a patchy qualifying campaign.
Manchester United new boy Young is developing as a figure of genuine international stature. He is in the perfect place for club and country, as his recent performances have proved.
And, injuries permitting, Capello will also have Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard at his disposal should England confirm their qualification. Youth, experience and high class in midfield, heavyweight additions to England's options.
Manchester United teenager Phil Jones did not figure in either of the qualifiers but if he progresses at his current rate then he will be a serious contender for a central defensive berth next summer.
Liverpool's Andy Carroll made a "blink and you'll miss it" appearance in the closing seconds and he returns to Anfield with words of warning to consider from Capello about his lifestyle.
If Kenny Dalglish can press the right buttons, and he is the master of man management, then England will have a fearsome weapon to take to Eastern Europe with them.
As for Capello himself, he was as uninspiring as his team on Tuesday, but he has shown tactical flexibility and a willingness to introduce fresh faces in qualifying that gives cause for cautious optimism.
England remain a work in progress - and the serious work will need to begin if they can avoid defeat in Podgorica.