Johnson cautious despite improvement
Although manager Martin Johnson pointedly refused to get carried away, 80,000 fans streaming away from Twickenham were in no doubt that they had seen the best England performance for many years.
What made it all the more noteworthy was that it was built on the sort of high-tempo, high-confidence backline play that has been the trademark of the southern hemisphere in recent years.
Winger Chris Ashton grabbed the headlines with two tries, the second a 90-metre special oozing with the self-belief forged from shredding Premiership defences on a weekly basis.
All around him the backs were on fire. Scrum-half Ben Youngs looked mature beyond his years with a constantly probing performance while Toby Flood, finally showing the self-belief his talent demands, distributed brilliantly and reaped 25 points from a faultless goal-kicking display.
Wing Mark Cueto had probably his best game in an England shirt while centre Shontayne Hape showed that he is not just a stop-gap until Riki Flutey returns from injury.
A year ago Johnson's England could barely fashion a backline move but now, with a new cast of young, seemingly fearless runners establishing themselves, they are right back in the World Cup mix.
"It was a good performance today, maybe they weren't expecting us to play as we did," said manager Martin Johnson in one of the understatements of the season.
"We can play and we know that. If the space is there we can go for it. We got off to a decent tempo, we made good decisions, went into the space, played it out of hand.
"A lot of our players took a step forward today. That's what you work for to get days like this."
Johnson, as keen to keep a lid on the excitement as he was to limit the doomsayers when England were struggling in his first games in charge, laughed off suggestions that it was England's best performance since winning the 2003 World Cup.
"We didn't play well in the World Cup final," he said. "We haven't changed particularly what we're doing. It's that bit of belief, confidence and the execution of doing it well.
"Our counter-attack was smart, we didn't force the pass that gives the turnover, we held on to the ball and made them defend which tires them out."
Toby Flood had a great day, moving the ball quickly and confidently and landing seven penalties and two conversions for a 25-point return from a faultless kicking display.
"I'm delighted but not surprised," Johnson said. "He's really matured, he runs the team and gives the guys a lot of confidence."
Australia coach Robbie Deans had few complaints as his bid for a third successive Australian win at Twickenham disappeared. "They picked up the tempo at every opportunity, they quick-tapped and kept things going. Clearly England deserved their win," he said.
Australia captain Rocky Elsom agreed.
"We had a lot of errors in execution, that let us down and you can't do that against an England side whose execution was top-notch," he said.
"They deserve all the credit for that win because they were very good."