England made a disastrous start to the autumn after Emiliano Boffelli inspired Argentina to only their second ever victory at Twickenham with a 30-29 win.
Two tries in quick succession by Boffelli and Santiago Carreras catapulted the Pumas into a 24-16 lead with 30 minutes to go as they looked to end a 10-Test losing run in the fixture.
But 29 seconds after coming on as a replacement for Ben Youngs, scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet raced clear from a ruck to slide over the line and, with Owen Farrell kicking a penalty, England appeared to have emerged from the crisis.
Boffelli had other ideas, however, as he kept hitting the target in an individual 25-point haul that gives Argentina a psychological edge ahead of their group clash at next year’s World Cup.
A flat afternoon only came to life when Argentina, led by Australian coach Michael Cheika, found the keys to the home defence and it took Van Poortvliet’s quick wits to keep England in contention.
Manu Tuilagi made his first England appearance in a year because of hamstring and knee injuries but he limped off in the 67th minute having made a muscular impact up until that point.
It was also an encouraging afternoon for giant wing Joe Cokanasiga, who was a far greater threat than in the July series opener against Australia after which he was dropped.
But otherwise it was a dismal display from the hosts as the Pumas emulated their breakthrough in 2006 by storming Twickenham.
Heavy rain through the morning took its toll on the spectacle, making handling treacherous early on, but England were also guilty of snatching at their passes.
Drizzle gave way to bright sunshine as debutant second row Alex Coles made an off-the-ball tackle and then dropped a restart, helping Boffelli kick Argentina into the lead.
For the first time England launched Tuilagi and Cokanasiga, forcing the Pumas defence to scramble, and their reward was a sustained spell of pressure spearheaded by the scrum.
Pinned on their line, Argentina were ahead on the scoreboard only but even that was shattered in the 25th minute when Cokanasiga used his strength to crash over the line after being picked out by Youngs.
Boffelli kept the Pumas in the hunt with another successful kick but their visits into the home half were rare in a match that was struggling to get out of first gear and, to illustrate the point, Farrell and the goalkicking wing exchanged penalties.
Six minutes into the second half Argentina burst into life, executing a pinpoint backs move off a scrum that saw Boffelli slide over in the corner.
Stung by the score, England attacked through Cokanasiga and Marcus Smith but the energy was sucked out of the move and then disaster struck when Farrell’s pass to Billy Vunipola landed on the floor.
Farrell stuck his arm up in claim of a Pumas knock-on but no offence was spotted by the TMO and so Carreras’ try was allowed to stand.
With no one at home around the breakdown for Argentina, Van Poortvliet showed his wits to score an opportunist touchdown that made England breathe a little easier.
But Farrell and Boffelli resumed trading penalties that meant Argentina led 30-29 heading into the decisive phase of the game.
Worryingly for England, they were pegged back deep in their own half and, as the clock ran down, they launched a do or die attack that was snuffed out on the halfway line, allowing the Pumas to celebrate victory.