“He’s got nerves of steel,” said England captain Chris Robshaw.
“We know, and I think other teams now know, that if they infringe in their 40, that they’ll be punished more often than not.
“In any rugby and especially international rugby, it’s about keeping the scoreboard ticking over.”
Farrell finished the game with a bloodied bandage around his head, covering a wound above his left eye that required five stitches, to go with four in his ear.
The image was striking and familiar. Fifteen years ago, at the same stadium, Paul Ince was the bloodied hero as the England football team secured qualification for the 1998 World Cup. It was only a goalless draw that day but a result of huge significance to England, just as yesterday’s was for Stuart Lancaster’s men.
Defeat would have made unwanted history and England made it tough on themselves, gifting Italy two tries at the end of the first half.
An awkward bounce, a deflection and a mix-up between Ben Foden and Ben Youngs gifted Italy their first try, scored by the wing Giovanbattista Venditti.
Moments later, Foden tried to force an offload that was intercepted and Azzurri centre Tommaso Benvenuti scored under the posts.
Italy edged further ahead after the break before Hodgson blocked Andrea Masi’s kick and followed up to score his second try of the championship, having done the same to Scotland’s Dan Parks a week earlier.
Farrell then kept his cool to land the conversion from wide on the left and strike two more penalties as England, with their scrum dominant, nudged into a match-winning lead.
Scorers for Italy: Tries: Venditti, Benvenuti; Con: Burton; Pen: Burton.
Scorers for England: Try: Hodgson; Con: Farrell Pens: Farrell 4.
ITALY: A Masi; G Venditti, T Benvenuti, G Canale, L McLean; K Burton, E Gori; A Lo Cicero, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt).
Replacements: L Cittadini for Castrogiovanni, 33; F Semenzato for Gori, 57; A Pavanello for Geldenhuys, 57; T D’Apice for Ghiraldini, 58; L Morisi for Canale, 63; M Bergamasco for Barbieri, 75.
ENGLAND: B Foden; D Strettle, B Barritt, O Farrell, C Ashton; C Hodgson, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, D Hartley, D Cole, M Botha, T Palmer, T Croft, C Robshaw (capt), P Dowson.
Replacements: L Dickson for Youngs, 50; B Morgan for Dowson, 50; G Parling for Palmer, 58; R Webber for Hartley, 74; M Stevens for Cole, 74; J Turner-Hall for Hodgson, 77.
Referee: J Garces (France).