Southampton striker Graziano Pelle put Italy ahead before Townsend fired the leveller past Gianluigi Buffon nine minutes after coming off the bench to earn England a creditable 1-1 draw at the Juventus Stadium.
“I was delighted. It was a difficult game and it was hard to break them down,” Townsend said.
“They settled very well with three at the back and the two wing backs were difficult to break down and I think there was going to have to be a strike from 20, 25, 30 yards to beat them and to get a goal today and thankfully it was me that got it.
“The manager stuck by me through the tough times and every time he’s picked me and every time he has shown me loyalty I have repaid that faith. And I’ve come on again and repaid that faith again and hopefully it can continue.”
Harry Kane had made a big impact after his introduction from the bench against Lithuania, but on Tuesday night it was his Tottenham team-mate who stole the limelight.
Nine minutes after entering the pitch, Townsend drove a fierce 20-yard drive past Gianluigi Buffon to earn England a 1-1 draw .
England, with Kane in their starting XI for the first time, were poor in the first half.
Wayne Rooney hit the bar, but Italy had the best chances and kept the ball superbly.
Phil Jones looked like a fish out of water playing in the holding midfield role and he gifted Italy the lead when he allowed Giorgio Chiellini to brush him aside and set up Graziano Pelle for the opener.
The Italy striker may have gone 13 Premier League games without a goal, but he glanced past Joe Hart easily after being left unmarked in the box.
England lacked rhythm, width and flair in the first half, but after the introduction of Ross Barkley and Townsend, they looked far more threatening and ended the game on top.
The improved performance was not enough to yield a second goal, but Roy Hodgson will still be happy that his post-World Cup unbeaten run remains intact thanks to Townsend’s third international goal in seven appearances.
When these two nations last met at the World Cup, England hit Italy with wave after wave of frightening attack from the first whistle.
It was exactly the opposite here in Turin.
England started extremely slowly, allowing the Italians plenty of time on the ball.
The atmosphere was also the polar opposite of Brazil. Faint cries of ’Rule Britannia’ could be heard from the travelling England fans at times, but otherwise you could hear a pin drop.
There was no chance of the Italians gifting Kane an early goal on his second appearance for England. Chiellini whacked into him early on and he kept tight to the debutant for the rest of the early stages.
The only time Kane gained a yard on the defender, he lost his footing in the box after getting on the end of Nathaniel Clyne’s pass into the box and Rooney failed with his attempted follow-up.
The game was being played at a pedestrian pace that lacked the quality of previous titanic clashes between two of the biggest heavyweights in football history.
Hart, winning his 50th cap, kept out a swirling Marco Parolo shot, but otherwise the England goalkeeper had little to do.
Phil Jagielka put in a crucial block to deny Eder the chance to tap in after some good work down the left by Matteo Darmian.
The Brazil-born forward had a chance to test Hart from 25 yards after being fouled by Clyne, but he almost hit the corner flag instead.
England finally mustered a threat in the 21st minute. Kane’s header was cleared to Rooney, who hit the bar with a powerful drive.
That was England’s only decent attempt of the first half. Their passing was poor and they seemed unable to prise open the Italian defence.
A lack of width did not help. Delph and Jordan Henderson rarely drifted wide from their positions in the centre of a diamond-shaped midfield and England tried to plough through the middle instead.
Then, just before the half hour, Italy took the lead. England made it easy for them. Chiellini effortlessly brushed past Jones and whipped in a pinpoint pass to the unmarked Pelle, who glanced the ball into the far corner.
Hodgson rose to his feet, hands on hips. He was not a happy man. The way Chiellini, a centre-half by trade, brushed past the 6ft 1in frame of Jones must have annoyed him the most.
Jones’ evening then worsened when he was booked for clattering into Eder. Hodgson’s night did not get any better either when Chris Smalling hobbled off with an injury.
He was replaced by Michael Carrick and Jones dropped back into defence.
England started much better after the break. Kane went close on two occasions, and Kieran Gibbs drove into the side-netting.
Italy were happy to camp in their own half and hit on the break. On one such occasion, Marco Parolo played the ball inside to Eder, who was denied by a brilliant save from Hart.
Barkley came on and Rooney moved up front alongside Kane.
The England captain belted a volley straight at Buffon after giving Chiellini the slip and he almost glanced home a Kane cross moments later.
Jones’ night was summed up when he almost turned the ball into his own net while defending a corner.
England looked destined for defeat, but Townsend had other ideas. The winger received the ball just on the edge of the box and fired immediately across a packed box and Buffon into the far corner.
Buffon saved well from Rooney and there was another chance for Kane to add another chapter to his fairytale season when he sneaked through on goal, but the Italian saved well and England had to settle for a draw.
Townsend felt that England could have gone on to win the game, but he was satisfied by securing a draw in Italy.
He added: “After we got the equaliser it was all us and we got two or three chances to get the win but it wasn’t to be. It was a good result against Italy on their home patch. It’s a good way to end the trip.”
Buffon, Bonucci, Ranocchia, Chiellini (Moretti 72), Darmian (Altonelli 73), Soriano, Valdifiori (Veratti 67), Parolo, Florenzi, Eder (Immobile 61), Pelle (Vasquez 61). Subs: Sirigu, Abate, Antonelli, Candreva, Zaza, Immobile, Verratti, Cerci, Barzagli, Gabbiadini, Vazquez, Moretti, Santon, Marchetti.
Hart, Clyne (Walker 44), Smalling (Carrick 44), Jagielka, Gibbs (Bertrand 87), Jones, Delph (Townsend 69), Walcott (Barclay 55), Rooney, Henderson (Mason 73), Kane.
Felix Brych (Germany)