Ben Te'o was the Twickenham super-sub as England overcame a significant scare to beat France 19-16 and kick off their Six Nations defence with a record 15th successive Test win.
Eddie Jones' men - who could become the first team to complete back-to-back Six Nations grand slams - trailed by four points heading into the final 10 minutes on Saturday, having struggled to impose themselves on a visiting team packed with muscular ball-carriers.
However, France were denied a first triumph at Twickenham since 2005 as Te'o crashed over for the match-winning try just two minutes after his introduction from the bench.
Jones will find plenty of room for improvement, but can take heart from a hard-fought victory secured in the absence of several injured stars - most notably the Vunipola brothers, Chris Robshaw, Anthony Watson and George Kruis.
France's defeat was particularly harsh on the outstanding Louis Picamoles, who punched holes in the home defence throughout and was also involved in the impressive build-up to a second-half try for Rabah Slimani that had looked set to prove decisive.
England previous best of 14-straight wins - a run snapped by France - came in 2002-03 ahead of their successful World Cup campaign, but the current crop have now exceeded one of the great accomplishments of their golden predecessors.
The team selection of Guy Noves suggested France would prove a significant physical threat and that proved the case, with England consequently lacking rhythm and momentum for much of the game.
Les Bleus moved 9-3 ahead as Camille Lopez landed three penalties to Owen Farrell's one in the opening quarter - two of the France fly-half's successful kicks coming with Jonny May in the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Gael Fickou.
Although the visitors threatened to add to their tally, making six clean breaks to England's two in the first half as Picamoles proved particularly potent, the visitors' pulled level by the interval, perhaps undeservedly.
Farrell put over his second three-pointer as May returned to the fray and Elliot Daly landed a penalty from almost 50 metres to make it 9-9, Lopez guilty of a miss in between those two scores.
There was further encouragement for England after the interval and, after Noa Nakaitaci had produced a superb try-saving tackle to prevent Daly from scoring in the left corner, the reigning champions moved ahead for the first time on 55 minutes - Farrell atoning for hitting the post with an earlier kick.
France refused to give in and retook the lead on the hour, Slimani taking a pass from Kevin Gourdon to score by the posts after several phases of attack highlighted by another fine carry and offload from Picamoles.
England were ultimately reliant on their bench strength as they turned things around late on, replacements Danny Care, James Haskell and Jack Nowell all contributing in an attack that ended with Farrell putting Te'o over for a priceless score, which the Saracens back converted.
Key Opta stats:
- This was England's narrowest victory in their 15-match winning run; they had previously won twice in that run by four points with the rest all coming by at least six points.
- England have won their last six against France at Twickenham, their best run at home against Les Bleus since winning six on the bounce from 1924 to 1949
- England have scored at least one try in their last 23 Test matches, last failing to cross the try line in March 2015 against Ireland; of tier-one teams only New Zealand are on a longer such run (36 games).
- Rabah Slimani scored his first try for France; including the French replacement, the last four props to score a try against England have ended the game on the losing side.