Wayne Rooney gave England a dream start, banishing the ghosts of his red card from his last visit as he headed home Steven Gerrard's corner with just six minutes on the clock and Roy Hodgson's side dominated the opening 45 minutes.
But the second half of the Group H contest was a completely different affair, with the hosts in the ascendency and they grabbed a fully deserved leveller in the 77th minute when half-time substitute Dejan Damjanovic forced home at the third attempt.
Hodgson made six changes with skipper Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Ashley Cole, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Danny Welbeck all returning after being rested for the 8-0 demolition of San Marino, with Kyle Walker, Leighton Baines, Frank Lampard, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young and Jermain Defoe the men to make way.
England were swiftly out of the blocks and forced Montenegro onto the back foot from the off with Rooney inches away from finding the net with only three minutes on the clock when his chip over the back-pedalling Mladen Bozovic struck the post.
Johnson then stung Bozovic's fingers with a searing drive from outside the box, with Hodgson's men taking the lead from the resulting corner as Rooney was allowed far too much space to head home Gerrard's delivery from seven yards out.
Joe Hart was a virtual spectator for most of the first half, with Joleon Lescott and Chris Smalling providing an excellent barrier to deal with everything Stevan Jovetic and Mirko Vucinic had to offer.
Welbeck had strong claims for a penalty rejected as half-time approached as he burst into the area from a neat Tom Cleverley pass only to have his heels clipped by Stefan Savic, with referee Jonas Eriksson adding further insult by booking the Manchester United forward for diving.
But the second half was a completely different affair, with the introduction of Damjanovic at the interval giving Montenegro a new impetus with Jovetic flashing a header into the side netting early on and Basa seeing his effort deflected wide soon after.
Vucinic then fired over the bar from a promising position after a poor header from Lescott before Hart survived a worrying moment as he allowed another effort from the Montenegro captain to slip out of his hands and through his legs before falling on the ball.
But it seemed inevitable that England would eventually be breached and the leveller came with 13 minutes remaining when Damjanovic saw his header from a corner superbly saved by Hart, with Welbeck blocking his follow-up before the substitute forced the ball home at the third attempt.
England twice went close to snatching what would have been an underserved victory, with Gerrard powering a volley straight at Bozovic, before the goalkeeper allowed a late free-kick to slip through his fingers only to see it go wide of the post.
After the match, skipper Gerrard admitted England paid the penalty for lacking the killer instinct to kill off Montenegro.
"We're still confident we can finish top of the group. We need to win all our games, we certainly need to improve on that second-half performance, and play like we did first half.
"I think there was a lot of experience out there and I think during the first half we showed that. We controlled the game.
"The problem is at 1-0 you're always vulnerable. You've got to go on and get the second goal to get complete control and we never did that.
"We stopped playing after the break for 20 or 30 minutes and, away from home, you just can't afford to do that.
"We stopped passing the ball, and that's when we lost control, and I think they deserved the equaliser."
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||5|
|7||Shots off Target||4|
|42||1st Half Poss.||58|
|47.8||2nd Half Poss.||52.2|