England launched a year it hopes will end with a place booked for Brazil by beating the five-time World Cup winners 2-1 for only the fourth time in its history.
However, there were far more pluses for manager Roy Hodgson than a first victory over Brazil since 1990. Jack Wilshere was outstanding alongside Steven Gerrard in midfield, and was deservedly named man of the match, Joe Hart saved a penalty and Theo Walcott's pace was a constant threat.
"It's my first crack at Brazil as a manager and I'm delighted to have been able to oversee a victory," England coach Roy Hodgson said. "It was an all-round performance from the team, there were some very, very good moments."
Brazil should have gone ahead when Wilshere blocked Oscar's cross with his hand in the area but Hart produced a magnificent double save to repel both Ronaldinho's penalty and the rebound before Neymar bundled the ball wide.
It was the first penalty save by an England keeper since 2004, so Hart deserved the luck he got when Neymar slid in at the far post to meet an Oscar cross from the other side which he somehow managed to scoop over from three yards.
"I'm used to losing the first game but after this I'm used to winning games and winning competitions," said Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who took charge of his first game in his second spell as coach. "I'm not disappointed and I'm not sad."
Wilshere's astute pass set Danny Welbeck up midway through the first half, only for the Manchester United man to fire wide with his right foot when the acute angle demanded an effort with his left.
And it was Wilshere who sliced Brazil apart with the pass that provided Walcott with the chance Julio Cesar saved, only for Rooney to calmly stroke home the rebound. Cesar denied Walcott with another fine stop before the end of as promising a half in a friendly as England have had for some time.
It was undeniably good from England - but it took them just two second-half minutes to undo all that positive work. Gary Cahill's lack of control led to him losing possession in no-man's land, the ball rolled to Fred on the edge of the area and with virtually his first touch after being introduced as a half-time substitute, he fired into the corner.
More shambolic defending, this time started by Chris Smalling, provided Fred with another chance which he clipped against the bar two minutes later. Yet England's response was as impressive as their first-half display had been.
Cahill and Walcott were repelled by Cesar before Rooney nipped in to provide Lampard with an opportunity snaffled in sensational manner, taking him onto 27 England goals and once again raising question marks over Chelsea's desire to off-load him. It was enough to seal a rare win over such glamorous opposition.
"We've got to get to Brazil, but if we continue with that attitude and get a bit more flow to our game we should be all right," said Lampard, whose Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole also made his 100th international appearance.
Brazil is down in 18th place in the FIFA rankings, partly because of a lack of competitive games as it qualifies automatically for the World Cup, and is looking for Scolari to restore the team's fortunes after coming in as a replacement for Mano Menezes last year.
"We aren't in the best physical shape yet but we will work on it," Scolari said.
Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.