Wayne Rooney led from the front to become England's fifth highest goalscorer as they eased to victory against San Marino at Wembley.
Rooney - captain in the absence of suspended Steven Gerrard and injured Frank Lampard - scored twice to take his tally to 31 as England finally overcame some early San Marino resistance to secure a comfortable World Cup qualifying win.
The Manchester United striker broke the deadlock with a 34th-minute penalty and Old Trafford team-mate Danny Welbeck quickly added a second as Roy Hodgson's side finally made their vast superiority count against the side ranked joint-207th in the world.
Rooney then edged ahead of Nat Lofthouse, Sir Tom Finney and Alan Shearer in England's goalscoring charts with his second after 70 minutes as they improved what could be the vital factor of goal differing in the closing stages.
Welbeck's knack for an instinctive finish was demonstrated once more with England's fourth and Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got his first goal for his country as plucky San Marino understandably faded after a constant rearguard action.
As he accepted the captain's armband for a second time, Rooney insisted that England would see a new and more mature character. He was true to his word as he ensured there would be no slip ups against a San Marino side that has now conceded 136 goals since they last scored away from home against Liechtenstein in 2003.
And England head to Poland for Tuesday's qualifier in good heart after rivals Ukraine were held to a draw in Moldova, where they won 5-0 last month.
The predicted pattern was established in the opening moments as San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini showed good athleticism to turn Oxlade-Chamberlain's rising shot over the bar.
England's all-time leading goalscorers
- Bobby Charlton: 49 goals in 106 appearances
- Gary Lineker: 48 in 80
- Jimmy Greaves: 44 (57)
- Michael Owen: 40 (89)
- Wayne Rooney: 31 (77)
It was the start of an eventful half for the keeper, who was also responsible for Theo Walcott's early departure after he flattened the Arsenal winger in a heavy challenge.
England were exerting total domination, with keeper Joe Hart's rare touches - usually passes out to his defenders - greeted by ironic cheers from the sell-out Wembley crowd.
Rooney had England's best chance when he headed Tom Cleverley's cross wide at the far post and there was more frustration when Michael Carrick's shot hit the bar and Welbeck could only turn the rebound off Simoncini against the post.
The deadlock was finally broken from the penalty spot. Welbeck was brought down by the busy Simoncini and Rooney stepped forward to finish the job emphatically.
England's lead was doubled three minutes later when Welbeck provided a superb finish from substitute Aaron Lennon's cross, backheeling beyond Simoncini in similar fashion to his goal against Sweden at Euro 2012.
The traffic flowed in the same direction after the restart as Carrick saw a shot blocked by Simoncini and Gary Cahill held his head in anguish after miskicking right in front of goal.
Leighton Baines also saw a curling free-kick brush the sidenetting before San Marino broke clear and actually threatened a goal just after the hour. Ezequiel Rinaldi Danilo was the man with the golden chance but excitement got the better of him and he lashed wildly off target.
Hodgson gave a debut to Liverpool's Jonjo Shelvey as he replaced Carrick - and it was not long before Rooney was re-arranging the order near the top of England's list of goalscorers.
Rooney curled a precise right-foot finish into the bottom corner then Welbeck, as he had done in the first half, followed up swiftly with a goal of his own with another fine near post finish from Cleverley's delivery.
San Marino were in desperate straits now and it was no surprise when, among a host of England bodies in the box, Oxlade-Chamberlain produced a moment of composure to beat the besieged Simoncini with real delicacy to round off the scoring.
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Comment number 230.Rob
10th October 2012 - 23:02
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