It required a late Frank Lampard penalty to cancel out Yevhen Konoplyanka's stunning first-half strike at Wembley. England had looked likely to drop all three points with Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck missing excellent chances for the home side while Ukraine always looked threatening on the break. And a frustrating evening ended on a sour note with Steven Gerrard sent off for a second bookable offence.
Roy Hodgson made just one enforced change to the team that beat Moldova in such impressive fashion on Friday night. With John Terry out injured the England boss opted to bring in Phil Jagielka rather than Gary Cahill to partner Joleon Lescott. The decision was a slightly contentious one given that Cahill had been part of Chelsea's UEFA Champions League winning side in May and been in the initial Euro 2012 squad ahead of Jagielka. But the Everton man's understanding with former team-mate Lescott as well as his impressive displays for his country - including a goal against Italy in August - did enough to get him the nod.
England retained a similar shape to the one they have used in the games against Italy and Moldova since the European Championship. Tom Cleverley continued in the No 10 position, playing off Jermain Defoe who has scored in each of those matches. England looked to keep the ball more than they did against Italy in the Euro 2012 quarter-final with Joe Hart choosing to roll the ball out to his centre-backs and build the attack more patiently.
Hodgson was positive with his changes albeit through necessity given England were chasing the game. Welbeck was the first change as he was introduced for Cleverley and the tall forward made a positive impression even if he was guilty of a poor miss reminiscent of the man he had replaced. Welbeck also had a penalty shout before showing good composure to win the spot-kick that Lampard put away. Also brought on was the lively Daniel Sturridge for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as well as Ryan Bertrand for Leighton Baines.
After the excitement about the performance of England's younger players against Moldova, this was a sobering experience. Cleverley is yet to score for Manchester United or England and after earning plaudits at the weekend he was the villain here - lacking any kind of ruthlessness in front of goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain has looked a star since bursting onto the scene but here he failed to impose himself on the game and was occasionally careless in possession and position before tiring and being withdrawn. Hodgson has been given credit for putting faith in younger players but the goodwill can dry up fast if the results are not forthcoming.
With tough trips to Poland, Montenegro and Ukraine to come in Group H, Hodgson's men can ill afford to slip up at home and will need to up their game if they are to claim the one automatic World Cup spot available. On the other hand, they are perhaps fortunate that there are a number of capable teams in the group - meaning Ukraine can be expected to drop points elsewhere. But Hodgson would be well advised to concentrate on getting the balance of his own side right. In particular, questions remain about a midfield that sees Lampard and Gerrard operating together while the shot-shy Cleverley is expected to provide a goal threat ahead of them.
Who was England's man of the match v Ukraine?