Theo Walcott marked his international debut with a goal inside three minutes, but England U21 were held by Moldova U21 in their Euro 2008 qualifying tie.
Walcott netted inside the opening three minutes of the match
The 17-year-old headed Leighton Baines' cross home early on to become the youngest scorer in England U21 history.
But England toiled and Serghei Alexeev chipped in an equaliser on 75 minutes - only for David Nugent's header one minute later to restore England's lead.
England were stunned again, however, as Alexandr Zislis fired in on 86 minutes.
It was a disjointed performance from the home side, despite their great start, and Moldova threatened on several occasions in the first half.
Indeed, they were relieved when Alexandru Gatcan's first-half header was harshly ruled out for a push.
England improved after the break and Tom Huddlestone flashed a 20-yard volley over the bar, before Steven Taylor almost doubled the lead on 57 minutes as he could not connect with a cross.
But Taylor was to turn villain as he lost possession and allowed Alexeev the chance to send an early chip past Carson.
Nugent's immediate response looked to have saved Peter Taylor's side, but substitute Zislis had the final say with a crisp side-footed volley.
The result leaves England struggling in their three-team qualifying group, which also includes Switzerland.
Only the top team will have a chance of qualifying for the finals.
England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor:
"I'm sure Theo enjoyed himself, to score very early is a bonus.
"He's played no matches, so the way he played for an hour is tremendous. I spoke to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and I knew an hour would be enough as it is his first game.
"I thought if we played better as a team he would have looked better, we would have kept possession and got him into better areas.
"Unfortunately we kept giving the ball away and didn't set up enough attacks."
England U21: Carson, Richards, Baines, Steven Taylor, Ferdinand, Huddlestone, Reo-Coker, Routledge, Walcott, Nugent, Bentley.
Subs: Hoyte, Camp, Davies, Watson, Milner, Ambrose, Jerome.
Goals: Walcott 3, Nugent 76
Moldova U21: Cebanu, Bordian, Golovatenco, Bulgaru, Epureanu, Sergiu Namasco, Tigirlas, Gatcan, Bugaev, Alexeev, Suvorov.
Subs: Stanislav Namasco, Soltanici, Vadim Bolohan, Zislis, Onica, Rudac, Secrieru.
Goals: Alexeev 75, Zislis 86
Referee: Vusal Aliyev (Azerbaijan)