Scotland managed to put England under some light pressure early on by making a couple of forays into the home side's area, while England, although seeing more of the ball, struggled to match their endeavour. The hosts surprisingly fell behind in the tenth minute when a half-cleared corner fell at the feet of James Morrison, who was allowed to take a touch before powering a shot at goal which Joe Hart could only palm into his own net.
England's play thereafter was extremely nervy, marked with balls flying over the bar, out of play, and into carelessly offside forwards. Tom Cleverley had the best opportunity so far for England shortly afterwards, finding the ball rebounding into his path no more than five yards from goal, but the Manchester United midfielder could not keep his footing and sprawled over before he could get a shot away, allowing Allan McGregor to collect the ball.
England's equaliser, when it did come, was very much a solo effort with the team still struggling to show cohesion. Theo Walcott picked up the ball down the right before leaving Steven Whittaker not knowing where he was, cutting inside and putting the ball inside Allan McGregor's near post before the Hull keeper could react.
Scotland had another chance themselves, however, Snodgrass again finding space down the left but electing to attempt to find Kenny Miller with a low cross rather than shoot, the ball being knocked behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
Wayne Rooney had devoured most of the pre-match focus, and he appeared to back up David Moyes' assertion that he was not fit to play as he struggled to get into the game and showed a poor touch and awareness throughout.
After half-time, the game didn't slow down but instead got even livelier. Scotland somehow managed to restore their lead when the much-maligned Kenny Miller left Gary Cahill for dead outside the area before powering a superb effort past Joe Hart from 20 yards, sending the visiting fans into delight.
England didn't have to wait too long to find a second equaliser, however, Steven Gerrard showing some class to deliver a fine free-kick into the area from deep which Danny Welbeck met with a header to make it 2-2.
England were now on top, and Scotland had to rely on some last-ditch defending to first block a Wayne Rooney shot after he picked up the ball 12 yards from goal and stepped inside before seeing his shot smothered, before Jack Wilshere suffered the same treatment after appearing to breach the visiting defence just afterwards.
With Scotland on the ropes, the introduction of Rickie Lambert probably didn't send them cowering at the prospect of facing a player making his debut at the tender age of 31, yet with almost his first touch he rose highest from a corner to plant a towering header past Allen McGregor and give England the lead for the first time in the game.
Scotland were wobbling, prompting Gordon Strachan to replace Miller with Leigh Griffiths, and the young Wolves striker almost scored immediately, being put through seconds after coming on, but his finish was too close to Hart, who was able to save with his feet and keep England ahead. The hosts then resumed their bombardment, Wilfried Zaha replacing Theo Walcott as Frank Lampard forced McGregor into a sprawling save to deny him from 30 yards.
Scotland appeared spent, but the introduction of Steven Naismith and Jordan Rhodes gave them some late thrust, the former in particular doing well to get down the left-hand side before Steven Whittaker's cross-cum-shot was blocked. Rhodes was put into a decent position shortly afterwards, but the attention of the England defence denied him from getting a cleanly-struck effort away and Hart saved comfortably.
Lambert almost made it an even more amazing debut as he struck the post shortly afterwards from a great opportunity, a bobble on the pitch appearing to confound the Southampton forward, but his earlier goal proved enough to earn England a victory against their oldest rivals.