The sense of farce underlying this occasion was probably best summed up midway through the second half. Danilo Rinaldi, a part-time Argentinian-Sammarinese footballer who will probably have to keep his normal job, with a furniture maker, ambled away from Gary Cahill and bore down on Joe Hart's goal. The home support would normally wince at the threat but the vast majority actually roared encouragement followed by anguish when the forward skewed his shot wide. International football is not supposed to be like this.
England departed with their thumping victory, albeit with only glimpses of real panache and with their goals scored in flurries towards the end of each half. Their front-line for the evening, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, each scored a pair with the stand-in captain following the prescribed script to lift himself above Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer to become the country's fifth highest scorer. He had found his range by the end, shrugging off the early rustiness. Given this was merely a warm-up for a sterner challenge against Poland on Tuesday it is a cause for optimism that he is scoring again.
Yet, with the hosts enjoying 86% of possession, this was only ever a public training session: an exercise of attack versus defence. "It actually added a new meaning to that," said Roy Hodgson, given just how many players the visitors crammed into their own penalty area to clog up the home side's attacks. The manager's principal task for the night was to remind his young charges that patience, more than anything extravagant, was always likely to be key.
The Mexican waves were pulsing round Wembley before the interval but the home support had endured pangs of frustration at times, too. San Marino – played 115, lost 109, conceded 478, scored 19 – had somehow managed to hold out for 35 minutes, spared by English over-elaboration and profligacy. This was no cricket score.
By the time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's cute lob secured England's fifth, 30 years after his father Mark scored on debut in a 9-0 victory over Luxembourg, the hosts' tally at least better reflected their dominance, even if it all still felt rather meaningless.
It said much that, after a 5-0 win, one of the main positives pinpointed by Hodgson was Ukraine's inability to win in Moldova. That puts another of the five-goal thrashings inflicted by England in Group H, in Chisinau last month, into better context. The England manager admitted to rather enjoying the second half here in the knowledge of that result and with his own team steadily eroding San Marino's resolve.
The visitors' survival only ever felt temporary. Everything they summoned was panic-stricken, their attempts to resist reliant on sheer number of bodies suffocating England's advances rather than any snazzy defensive game-plan.
If the ball was cleared it was generally at a scramble. Their long-serving manager Giampaola Mazza – a PE teacher – praised his team for only accruing "two bookings, and playing with a lot of fair play". For a while he might have hoped for even more, particularly when Michael Carrick thumped a long-range shot against the crossbar just after the half-hour, the ball cannoning down on to Aldo Simoncini's outstretched hand only for Welbeck to crunch the loose ball on to a post. The game was goalless at the time. "But I always knew England were going to score," added Mazza.
They did, twice, within minutes. Welbeck was tripped by Simoncini for Rooney to thrash home the penalty, with the younger forward then back-heeling Aaron Lennon's pull-back beyond the goalkeeper, a throwback to his goal against Sweden at Euro 2012.
If eking goals from the stand-in captain had been one of Hodgson's objectives, then pepping Welbeck's confidence after a scoreless start to his season at Manchester United was another. The 21-year-old provided his team's fourth with a tap-in, moments after Rooney had skimmed a shot beyond Simoncini, an accountant, from the edge of the area. Even so, the cheers for Joe Hart's every touch – there were three in the first half – were just as deafening.
This was a "competitive" fixture where one side mustered 33 shots and the other one, Rinaldi's slice flying high and wide. England had spent their summer in Ukraine chasing the ball but the gulf here was still embarrassing at times even if they ran aground too often.
Hodgson will be cheered that he could rest Jermain Defoe, Joleon Lescott and James Milner, all of whom would have missed the game against Poland had they been booked. Less encouraging was the loss of Theo Walcott, whose first start in almost a year had been stifled by Simoncini's brutal early shoulder-barge. Quite how the foul merited neither a penalty nor a dismissal was mystifying, though it probably spared San Marino a worse drubbing.