Sturridge leapt high to head home Adam Lallana's cross with eight minutes left of what was otherwise an uninspiring 1-0 win.
This match was billed as a grand audition for England's fringe players to prove to Roy Hodgson that they deserved a place on the plane to Brazil.
For the most part it was something of an anti-climax though, as England lacked purpose and a cutting edge in the first half in particular.
When Cesare Prandelli looks at the tape of the first 45 minutes of this encounter at Wembley, the Italy coach will hardly be quaking in his boots.
But Hodgson had always earmarked this game as one to experiment, so a little leeway should be given to the England manager.
The first half experiment of deploying Sturridge out wide did not work, though.
The striker, scorer of 32 goals in 39 games while playing as a main frontman, was inexplicably positioned on the left wing.
It was only when Sturridge was moved into the centre after the break that he had the biggest impact, and his goal was a superb poacher's effort.
Other positives should be taken too. Raheem Sterling hit a post and won the man of the match award.
Luke Shaw did not look out of place when he came off the bench to make his debut at left-back, but Ashley Cole also put in a very impressive 45 minutes for the Three Lions.
But the feeling remains that Hodgson still has a lot of work to do with his players by the time England's World Cup opener against Italy takes place on June 14.