Steve McClaren's side had endured a mixed campaign that had left them one point behind their Wembley opponents with four fixtures remaining, despite a comfortable 3-0 success over Israel on the previous weekend, with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Michael Owen and Micah Richards netting the goals.
The three scorers retained their place in the team, as McLaren opted to name an unchanged lineup for what would undoubtedly be a sterner test than the one that Israel offered.
However, the Three Lions looked in control from the off, and Owen wasted little time in giving England an early lead, slotting the ball home from 10 yards after a cross from Gareth Barry.
The home side's momentum continued, and after Emile Heskey had been denied by Russia goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, Owen slipped at the vital moment when it had looked as though he would net his second.
© Getty Images
Heskey got ahead of a Russian defender to flick the ball into the path of Owen, who made no mistake in dispatching the ball into the net for his 40th international goal.
Russia continued to press, but slowly but surely England regained the initiative and nine minutes from time, they put the result beyond doubt with a third goal.
© Getty Images
Owen turned provider to play the ball to Rio Ferdinand, who made no mistake in lashing the ball home to cap off what had been a excellent team performance from McClaren's men.
The triumph had taken England two points clear at the top of the group and left them on the brink of qualification, but disaster struck in their final two matches.
After recording a 3-0 win over Estonia, England let slip a 1-0 advantage in their return match with Russia to fall to a 2-1 loss, leaving their progress hanging in the balance.
Other results meant that England required just a draw at home to Croatia, but they capitulated under the pressure, quickly falling 2-0 behind before succumbing to a demoralising 3-2 defeat as heavy rain battered down in North London.
After becoming the target of fierce criticism after their qualification failure, McClaren was removed from his position as manager and England were left to rebuild ahead of the 2010 World Cup.