The second-half introduction of strikers Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge provided England the firepower needed to clinch this come-from-behind win in the Battle of Britain.
Roy Hodgson's side dominated possession in the opening 45 minutes and should have taken the lead as early as the seventh minute but Raheem Sterling blazed his effort over the bar.
Both he and Harry Kane had disappointing outings and were hauled off by Hodgson, who saw his team go into the half trailing 1-0 after Welsh star Gareth Bale scored his second goal of the tournament, again from a free-kick.
The Real Madrid winger was 35 yards from Joe Hart's goal and while his shot had swerve and pace, the Manchester City stopper had enough time to see the ball but could only palm it into the net and allowed Wales a shock lead.
That advantage lasted 11 minutes as Vardy and Sturridge combined to devastating effect, the latter sending in a cross that eventually fell to Vardy who finished with aplomb.
Wales were on the back foot after the equaliser as England, who had not tasted defeat to their opponents since 1984, sensed blood and started pummelling the Welsh goal.
The pressure finally paid off in injury time as Sturridge barrelled his way into the penalty area, collected a loose ball and poked home the dramatic winner for England.
- England carve out the first chance in the 7th min. Kane lofts a pass for Adam Lallana to chase and he gets into the box to deliver a cutback to Sterling. But the Manchester City winger cannot steer the ball in from six yards and puts it over the bar.What a miss though.
- For all their possession, England's first shot on target arrives only in the 26th min when a freekick by Wayne Rooney is met by Gary Cahill but his flicked header is direct straight at Wayne Hennessey in the Wales goal.
- Confusion in the Welsh area in the 32nd min eventually leads to the ball hitting Ben Davies' left arm. The England players around him appeal for a penalty but the German referee is not interested.
- Bale delivers the ultimate sucker punch three minutes before the break to give Wales the lead. He hammers a free-kick from 35 yards that dips and swerves over the wall but Hart sees it all the way but can only palm the ball into his goal. The England No. 1 could - and should - have done better.
- Hodgson makes changes at half-time and brings on Vary and Sturridge for the ineffective Kane and Sterling. His substitutions pay dividends in the 56th min as both are involved in the equaliser. Sturridge's cross is accidentally redirected by Wales captain Ashley Williams and Vardy, who would have been offside had it been touched by a team-mate, swivels and slams the loose ball past Hennessey.
- The third and final England change sees 18-year-old Marcus Rashford replace Lallana for the final 18 minutes. Rashford makes his much-awaited tournament debut.
- With a great piece of skill, Rooney sells Aaron Ramsey a dummy but his 79th min shot is charged down by the Wales defence.
- The comeback is sealed in added time as Sturridge barges into the box and toe-pokes the ball for the dramatic winner.
- Bale almost snatches a point for Wales in the 93rd min but his header flashes wide of the far post.
The talking point
What now for Kane and Sterling after this performance from the men who replaced them? Goal scorers Vardy and Sturridge have surely staked their claims for a starting place in the final group game against Slovakia. Hodgson cannot afford to ignore them. The victory also highlighted what a strong bench the England manager can call upon, particularly when it comes to attacking talents. He brought on Rashford who looked comfortable at this level and whose pace and willingness to take on defenders offers England another dimension.
Man of the Match
Vardy and Sturridge will naturally dominate the headlines but full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were England's best players. Both carried out their defensive duties capably and provided width on either flank as England's midfielders tended to hog the centre. Rose and Walker were tireless as they offered balance and kept Wales pinned in their own half.
What the result means
The Three Lions top Group B but no one in the English camp should get carried away by this result. They did well to recover from the Bale sucker-punch and upped their game after the break but Sturridge's late winner does not hide the flaws facing Hodgson. His team still lack fluidity, particularly in the final third, and for all their possession, did not use the ball wisely enough to stretch their opponents and create good goal-scoring opportunities. For Wales, the manner of the loss was heartbreaking but they should still qualify for the knock-out rounds. A point against the Russians should be enough and in Bale, they still possess a player who can change games with the swing of his left boot.
This was the firs time in a major tournament that England had recovered from a half-time deficit to record a win. Such displays of resiliency bode well particularly as they enter the business end of the tournament and will face stronger teams.
What they said
Sturridge: "Great feeling, unbelievable, I'm grateful to the opportunity from the gaffer. It's a beautiful feeling to represent your country. It's crazy.
"There's one more game in the group so no one wants to get too excited. But the atmosphere is amazing. It's great to help the boys win the game."
Vardy: "Everyone wants to be a part of the starting line up but it is a team game, we are all in this together and when you come off the bench you want to make an impact and luckily I did today.
"We thought we were playing well. The message was simple - to carry on doing what we were doing and hopefully the goals would come and they did.
"We just want to take each game as it comes, we got the win today and hopefully we can win the next game."