Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was forced to apologise after making a bizarre remark about racism that has invited renewed scrutiny of his England regime.
Tries by Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Manu Tuilagi have driven England to a more convincing victory over Wales than the 33-30 scoreline suggested, but what the result means for the coronavirus-hit European Six Nations championship remains to be seen.
England led 20-9 at the break and looked to be running away with Saturday’s game after going 33-16 up after an hour but, down to 13 men after a yellow card for prop Ellis Genge and a red for centre Tuilagi for a dangerous tackle, they were cut open for two late tries.
England’s third successive victory takes them to 13 points, level with unbeaten France, who play in Scotland on Sunday. Ireland are on nine points, also with two games remaining.
For Wales, it was a third successive defeat, a year after winning the Grand Slam.
England will now have to wait for a rearranged date for their final game in Italy, hoping that France slip up in one of their last two games to open the door to the title. Ireland are also in limbo over their home game against Italy, originally scheduled for earlier on Saturday.
“Whenever we felt we got control Wales are so good at staying in the fight,” said England’s man of the match Ben Youngs.
“They battled hard and our discipline gave they easy leg-ups. They are clinical enough to punish you. It was tight in the end.
“We always try to come out with intensity and did that. We were able keep hold of game and control of it early on, a bit like they did in the second half. Rugby is bizarre at times.”
England struck early after Maro Itoje won a towering lineout and Youngs fired a superb reverse pass to Watson. The winger still had work to do but his remarkable ability to find space saw him jink past Tomos Williams.
Wales stayed in the game with two Leigh Halfpenny penalties but they were short of ideas when they had the ball, routinely kicking away possession.
England were comfortably on top and eventually razor-sharp passing by Owen Farrell and George Ford sent Daly over in the left corner.
Farrell converted both tries and added two penalties to make it 20-9 at halftime.
But within a minute of the restart they were back within four points after England’s defence fell apart from their own kickoff, allowing Wales to pour through at pace and send flanker Justin Tipuric under the posts.
Twickenham was stunned, but England quickly regained control of the ball, territory and scoreboard, with two more penalties for a 10-point lead.
That was stretched to a decisive 17 when patient and sustained attacking allowed Tuilagi to walk in the third try.