Away from home, and against a Spanish side in scintillating form under their new coach Luis Enrique, this was certainly England’s best win under Gareth Southgate and, perhaps, their most impressive since thrashing Germany 5-1 in Munich in 2001.
Marcus Rashford was the other scorer in a breathless opening 45 minutes, which witnessed Spain conceding three on home soil for the first time in their history.
"To play the way they did, this should be a great reference point for this team for the future," Southgate said.
Paco Alcacer, on as a substitute, headed in before the hour to spark hopes of a comeback but England were home and dry by the time Sergio Ramos scored in the 98th minute, with the last action of the match.
It means England keep alive their hopes of finishing top of Group 4 in the UEFA Nations League, the position Spain had needed only a point to all-but-guarantee would be theirs.
It was a night for streaks ending and records tumbling. Sterling’s opening goal was his first in 1,102 days for England, even more remarkable given he added his second 22 minutes later.
"The only thing we did say is when he scores he will score again," Southgate said. "He managed to do so pretty quickly."
The last time England won away against Spain was 1987 - which was also when they last scored against Spain away from home, Gary Lineker on target.
With an average age of just over 23, this was also the youngest England starting line-up in the 21st century. That will be the most exciting aspect for Southgate.
For Spain, Alcacer now has an astonishing 10 goals from his last 10 shots on target. But defeat represents something of a reality check. "Waving the flag for goals," read Marca’s front page on Monday. They had scored 12 in three games since Luis Enrique took charge. — AFP