Euro U21 - Welbeck rescues point for England
Stuart Pearce's England side were outplayed, outpassed and outclassed for much of the match against Spain, who were made to pay for failing to add to Ander Herrera's headed opening goal on 14 minutes in the Danish town.
England had struggled to piece together any meaningful attacks in the second period, but equalised when Welbeck slipped the ball beyond Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David De Gea from close range on 88 minutes after a fine run and cross by Kyle Walker, who was probably England's best player on the night.
Substitute Jack Rodwell was offside when Welbeck scored, but the assistant linesman failed to raise his flag as the referee whistled to confirm the goal as England's players raced away to celebrate their good fortune.
England face Ukraine in their next Group B match on Wednesday. Ukraine must avoid defeat to stay in the tournament after they suffered a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic earlier in the day.
Spain scored from their first attack of the night when Herrera nodded into the net from Javi Martinez's free header after a lovely corner from Thiago. There was a suspicion of handball about the goal, but no England players protested and Spain had the lead.
Chris Smalling made a fine tackle to deny Adrian Lopez a free run at goal on 33 minutes before England enjoyed their best spell of the match prior to the break.
Sturridge's flick looked netbound, but De Gea showed why he is wanted by Manchester United as he threw himself across goal to swat the ball wide of a post.
England goalkeeper Frank Fielding leapt into action on 57 minutes when the impressive Chris Smalling blocked a Herrera shot from the edge of the box.
The ball spun up off the deck and flew goalwards, but Fielding did well to get himself across his goal to make the save.
It was to prove a vital touch as Welbeck's late equaliser gave England a point that never looked on the cards for most of the night before a crowd of over 8,000.
They will need to find a greater cutting edge when they face Group B leaders the Czech Republic on Wednesday.