FOR A SECOND successive week, desperate England left it late but yet again they somehow secured another victory.
Gutted Wales should have been out of sight in Cardiff tonight having enjoyed all the best moments in a bruising second half.
However, they failed to capitalise and, instead, Wasps winger Elliot Daly came up with the crucial try in the 77th minute to break their hearts and extend England’s winning run to 16 games.
Eddie Jones’ side almost came up short last week against France in their 6 Nations opener but the defending champions once more showed champion spirit to claw their way back to victory and keep hopes of a successive grand slam alive.
Just as then, it was the bench that proved decisive, centre Ben Te’o - the matchwinner last week - coming on to rip holes in Wales and set up the dramatic finale.
England, apprehensive and far from slick, were trailing 16-13 late on when his clean break got them on the front foot at last.
Still, the supporting Danny Care was halted by Alex Cuthbert and then Welsh winger Liam Williams also forced a turnover.
However, a poor box-kick criminally handed possession straight back to the visitors and two long passes later - from George Ford and Owen Farrell - Daly was speeding to the corner to beat Cuthbert on the outside.
Farrell converted and Wales - who saw star winger George North pull out an hour before kick-off, Cuthbert his replacement - were left utterly dumbfounded.
They had gone in 13-8 ahead after scoring two minutes before the break.
Ben Youngs saw his box-kick charged down in his own 22 and, though team-mate Joe Marler got to the ball, the prop knocked on, handing the hosts prime attacking position.
The scrum set-move was a basic one - winger Liam Williams coming infield to loiter on the shoulder as scrum-half Rhys Webb received from No8 Ross Moriarty - so it was alarming England were so blatantly fooled.
Centre Jonathan Joseph was conned by a dummy runner and stayed outside, Williams charging through to score between the posts gifting Leigh Halfpenny a simple conversion.
Earlier, after Halfpenny and Farrell had exchanged penalties, Youngs had scored the first try of the night, the England scrum-half stretching through a ruck in the 18th minute after a barrage of sustained pressure on Wales’ line.
Farrell missed the conversion and, after Halfpenny responded with a penalty, England needed Jack Nowell to rescue them when Dan Biggar chipped ahead a loose ball.
Daly had dropped a high kick to offer up the chance but his fellow wideman - recalled at the expense of Jonny May - just got back in time to clear the danger.
Webb then thought he had sniped over from close range only for video replays to show he was well short and, when England forced a penalty defending a 5m scrum, they cleared their lines again.
In fairness, England’s defence looked watertight as they pressured their probing opponents into more errors, only to collapse inexplicably for that Williams try.
Indeed, Wales should have gone on to finish the game off, Biggar denied after a blatantly forward pass from Webb in the 45th minute following a scything Jonathan Davies long-range break.
Furthermore, Davies then spilled when Webb’s clever bullet pass down the blindside created acres of space.
However, with England self-imploding - Mike Brown inexplicably hoofed one kick out on the full and was also turned over twice - Wales were able to maintain plenty of pressure.
Even when the visitors were on the front foot, they self-destructed, Biggar charging off his own goalline to intercept and race 50m to ease another threat.
England were thankful that - as the Welsh fly-half then kicked on - the swifter Daly was able to recover and desperately slide the ball into touch but on their own 22, a stark concession.
Only Wales’ ill-discipline kept England in touch, Farrell converting penalties either side of another Halfpenny effort, but, in the end, that proved so vital ahead of that final flourish.
Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, J Davies, S Williams (Roberts 71), L Williams; Biggar, Webb (G Davies 65); Evans (N Smith 53), Owens (Baldwin , Francais (Lee 53), Ball, Jones, Warburton, Tipuric, Moriarty (Faletau 53).
England: Brown; Nowell (May 71), Joseph (Te’0 63), Farrell, Daly; Ford, Youngs (Care 63); Marler (Mullan , Hartley (George 47), Cole (Snickler 71), Launchbury, Lawes, Itoje, Clifford (Haskell 49), Hughes.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France)