The 21-year-old Manchester United striker's well-taken first-half effort made him his country's youngest scorer since Theo Walcott in 2008.
Roy Hodgson had pencilled in Andy Carroll up front for the Group D clash in Donetsk a week tomorrow, after the Liverpool forward's decent showing in Norway last weekend.
But the England manager may well change his mind after Welbeck's display, with his contribution not limited to his ability to put the ball in the net. Earlier, Welbeck chased down a pretty hopeless cause, retrieving the ball by the goal-line and then rolling it back to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Making his first England start, the 18-year-old flashed a shot narrowly wide. It was the type of move it would be hard to imagine Carroll setting up, even if the Anfield player is a greater threat as a pure target man.
Sir Bobby Charlton was among those at Wembley to receive a special Uefa commemoration of his achievement of reaching 100 caps. And England's record goalscorer must have been impressed by Welbeck's first international goal, a delightful left-footed dink over Simon Mignolet after he was set free by Old Trafford team-mate Ashley Young.
However, it was one of the few high spots in a feisty contest, the biggest cheer of which was for the appearance of another England centurion – David Beckham – at half-time.
Captain Steven Gerrard's industry started the move Welbeck finished. He also had shots blocked by Timmy Simons and Guillame Gillet in a frenzied spell towards the end of that first half.
Much earlier, Oxlade- Chamberlain's eyes must have lit up when James Milner rolled a cross invitingly into his path, only for his standing foot to give way as he was about to shoot, leaving him to beat the ground in frustration.
Belgium's only opportunity was created for Axel Witsel by Dries Mertens, who was also responsible for the incident that ended with Gary Cahill – worringly for Hodgson – needing an X-ray on his jaw.
With 19 minutes on the clock, Cahill was trying to shepherd the ball back to Joe Hart when he was shoved in the back by Mertens and went crashing into his goalkeeper.
It was a nasty collision and Cahill did not even try to continue, looking groggy as he ruefully rubbed his jaw on the way off. He was replaced by Phil Jagielka, the standby defender drafted into the squad to replace Gareth Barry last week.
The entire game was far more physical than Hodgson would have wanted. Trevor Cherry remains the only England player to be sent off in a friendly but Ashley Cole and Scott Parker were both booked as the tackles flew in from both sides. Joleon Lescott, finished the game sporting a Terry Butcher-style bandage covering a nasty cut above his eye.
Wayne Rooney, banned for England's first two games, made an brief appearance as Welbeck's input was brought to an end seven minutes into the second half. Rooney ended the game as captain, suggesting he will end up being Gerrard's deputy.
Fellow substitute Jermain Defoe almost profited later on from Theo Walcott's lay-off as he rasped a shot against the far post. Largely though, Belgium dominated, with Gillet firing a long-range effort against the outside of a post and Marouane Fellaini also coming close.