Jermain Defoe scored a memorable hat-trick to get England's UEFA EURO 2012 challenge off to a winning start and put a spring in the step of Fabio Capello's team again after the disappointment of their 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.
The Tottenham Hotspur FC striker, who delayed a groin operation to lead the England attack in their Group G opener, rounded off his trio in fine style in the 86th minute. Substitute Adam Johnson had just added a third with the back-in-form Wayne Rooney helping to lay on all four goals.
A game can sometimes turn on incidents at both ends in quick succession. It was the case at Wembley in the 61st minute as Stanislav Angelov found himself with a clear sight of goal only for Joe Hart to stand firm as he did impressively all night. Away went England with pace and purpose. Defoe drifted left to give Rooney a target and then clinically put away the low chance to make it 2-0.
Rooney had also had a big hand in the third-minute opener. The Manchester United FC talisman, constantly dropping deep to get involved, twice featured in the move which also benefited from Ashley Cole's willingness to push forward. Rooney's return pass found Cole well placed in the area and although Nikolay Mihaylov parried his first attempt, the Chelsea FC left-back was able to turn the ball across for Defoe to volley in spectacularly.
After that the pace slackened. Bulgaria began to see more of the ball but the biggest alarm Hart encountered before the break came when Glen Johnson, attempting to send a right-wing cross behind for a corner, diverted the ball towards the far post and the young goalkeeper, playing in his first competitive international, did well to smother the ball.
The visitors began the second half brightly with Valeri Bozhinov and Ivelin Popov coming tantalisingly close to an equaliser. Michael Dawson was then carried off, dealing another blow to England's defensive cover and meaning an unexpected debut for Gary Cahill.
Had Angelov struck soon after things could have been different but at 2-0 the result was never in doubt even before Johnson and Defoe put a gloss on things and sent Fabio Capello's men to Switzerland on Tuesday with confidence replenished. Bulgaria welcome Montenegro the same night.