England put themselves in a commanding position at the head of Group G with a narrow victory that leaves them requiring a point from the 7 October trip to Montenegro to book their place at UEFA EURO 2012.
Ashley Young put England ahead with his third international goal in six appearances and while they were generally comfortable they enjoyed an amazing let-off with 14 minutes remaining, Wales substitute Robert Earnshaw spurning a glorious chance in front of an open goal.
Frank Lampard was restored to England's midfield with Scott Parker making way. The Chelsea FC man was clearly eager to prove a point to those who say that, at 33, he should no longer be a regular for his country.
The teams traded headers from set-piece deliveries but neither was a serious threat. Wales expected to defend for long periods but were not slow to try and exploit any opportunity that arose, and Steve Morison broke clear but had too tight an angle to shoot.
Wayne Rooney was just off target with a chip and after Young took on his man to engineer a cross, Stewart Downing sent a difficult volley over. In reverse, the combination worked wonders for England. Downing surged away from Joe Ledley's challenge and when he cut the ball back Young had drifted into sufficient space to score with a low shot.
Rooney was only millimetres away from connecting with a Young cross as England began to play with more freedom. They continued in the same vein at the start of the second half as Young stung Wayne Hennessey's palms.
The outstanding Gareth Barry snuffed out the danger when Aaron Ramsey threatened but it was England who looked more likely to add to the scoreline. Barry's dribble teed up Lampard but he scooped it over, while Gary Cahill could not quite keep his shot down after Hennessey spilled a cross.
A second goal would have settled the nerves that arose as Wales finished the stronger, and Earnshaw could have punished them following Ramsey's free-kick.