Peter Crouch grabbed the glory with the only goal but Steve McClaren was quick to praise his defence after his side's 1-0 win in Macedonia.
Captain John Terry was immense at the back as McClaren's men survived a surge of late pressure from the home team.
Terry stood firm as England clung on to win 1-0, thanks to Crouch's 46th-minute volley.
McClaren said: 'The back four and the goalkeeper were absolutely fantastic and John Terry, in partnership with Rio Ferdinand, was phenomenal.
'He leads by example and I'm delighted for him. It was his first away game as captain and we've won the game.'
Chelsea skipper Terry made two crucial interceptions late in the game to help England keep their third clean sheet in three games under McClaren.
The new manager has a 100% record but this Euro 2008 qualifier in Skopje was far harder than last month's friendly against Greece or the doddle against Andorra.
Terry's most important contribution came in the final moments of the first half when he hurled himself in front of a fierce drive from Velice Sumulikoski.
The Macedonian looked certain to score but the England skipper would not give up and made a vital block.
McClaren said: 'It was a team effort which kept them out. Macedonia threw a lot of balls into the box and anything can happen.
'We defended well. That's why we put people on the line. They did their jobs and we did ours. That's the most important thing.
'We knew Macedonia were a good team. We expected them to be strong at home and they were.
'It was a test for the team and the team came through.
'Teams win games away from home in Europe and we won because we played as a team.
'We defended magnificently throughout and deprived Macedonia of any clear-cut chances.
'We knew we would have to defend very well.
'We needed the second goal but it didn't happen and we knew we would come under pressure.'
McClaren missed Crouch's goal, which came seconds after the start of the second half.
The manager was still in the dressing room thinking about his second-half tactics.
McClaren said: 'I had finished my half-time team-talk and the players went out but I was having a bit of a think about the second half.
'It's something I've done in the past and it's worked and it worked again.
'I saw it on a TV monitor as I came down the tunnel. It was a pretty good goal.'
Crouch now has 11 goals in 14 games for his country - all of them in the last six months.
McClaren said: 'It is phenomenal. He is a threat. He leads the line well and took a lot of stick.
'I thought he was unfortunate with a lot of the decisions from the referee tonight but he stuck at his task.
'He is an opportunist and he took his opportunity well - even though I missed it.'
Macedonia boss Srecko Katanec claimed his team had 'gifted' the game to England with a defensive mistake.
But he warned McClaren his team will face another battle when the teams meet again at Old Trafford on October 7.
Katanec said: 'It was a gift victory for England because we made a big mistake in front of goal to make it 1-0.
'I hope England will be generous hosts in the next game and gift us a goal like we gave to them.
'I was satisfied with the way we played but sorry we didn't get the result we deserved. I thought the game was equal.'