Outclassed by the Wallabies for the first 40 minutes, England may have been emboldened by a half-time parade by their 2003 World Cup-winning side. They were comfortably the better side in the second period, closing out the game with the rugby nous that took their compatriots to glory a decade ago.
Australia, though, have every right to be livid about decisions that gave England two second-half tries. After 49 minutes, Irish touch judge Dudley Phillips failed to spot Mike Brown put his feet in touch in his own 22 before launching the counter-attack that ended with captain Chris Robshaw powering over the line at the other end. Eight minutes later referee George Clancy ignored the block by England replacement hooker Dylan Hartley that cleared the way for Owen Farrell to speed through for the second.
Farrell's conversion of Robshaw's try let England draw level, while his try-conversion double wrapped up the scoring. Australia may have felt aggrieved, but they did themselves no favours as they tried to redeem the situation, losing the sharpness that had marked them out as the better side earlier in the game.
Coaches enjoy victories that leave them work to do, and Lancaster is not short of options on that front after last night. England misfired badly in a first period where they displayed edginess, a lack of understanding and a failure to cope with opponents whose tails were up. Farrell, particularly, had a stinker in the early stages, and it was only when the scoreboard looked a little less calamitous that he rediscovered his customary composure.
In the middle third of that first half he missed three straightforward penalty attempts, pilling two wide and smacking a third into an upright. Even after nudging England into a 6-3 lead with a successful effort in the 28th minute, the Saracens star looked uncomfortable. In defence, England looked flustered. The Wallabies exploited their unease to take advantage of errors by Chris Ashton and Billy Twelvetrees and thrust Matt Toomua over after 31 minutes.
England had slightly the better of the scrums, but line-out errors robbed them of continuity. Brown impressed at full-back, Joel Tomkins had a mostly satisfying debut in the centre and Billy Vunipola generally made yards at No 8, but it was only when the side was bolstered by a raft of second-half replacements that England began to look comfortable, a pattern that may tempt Lancaster to make changes ahead of next weekend's clash with Argentina.
It was a classic first outing for England. Australia, with a host of recent Tests under their belts, can take satisfaction from the performances of Quade Cooper at fly-half and Israel Folau at full-back, but they will rue their failure to defend their lead.
Cooper made some sublime touches and kicked well, but his assurance fell away in the second half when he missed two penalty chances. As Australia got looser, England got tighter and the Wallabies could have no real grounds for complaint at the end.
England: England: Brown, Ashton, Tomkins, Twelvetrees (Morgan 66) Yarde, Farrell, Dickson (B Youngs 55), M Vunipola (Marler 54), T Youngs (Hartkey 54), Cole (Wilson 66), Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, B. Vunipola (Flood 66). Not used: Attwood, Foden.
Australia: Folau, Ashley-Cooper (McCalman 49), Kuridrani, Toomua, Cummins, Cooper, Genia (White 66), Slipper (Robinson 61), Moore (Faingaa 68), Alexander (Kepu 49), Timani (Douglas 62), Horwill, Fardy (Foley 49), Hooper, Mowen. Replacements: Kepu for Alexander (49). Not Used: Lealiifano.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)