England beat Australia for only the third time in their history to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series.
Anna Mayes' team, who are ranked three in the world, withstood a strong fightback from the world champions to post 58-53 victory at Bath University.
England dominated early on and a run of 11 unanswered goals took England to a 33-22 half-time lead, after the homes side had won the first quarter 17-12. Australia closed to within two goals but a determined fourth quarter meant England held on for their third win in 59 meetings.
Mayes, the head coach, said: "We are really pleased but there's a lot of work still to be done. But today that's an England side that really dealt with the pressure."
After England's first-half dominance, the Australia coach Lisa Alexander switched her shooting partnership at half time.Replacement goal shooter Caitlin Bassett, the tallest player on court at 6ft 3in, began to pull back the deficit, but it was not enough.
England wing defence Sara Bayman added: "Today is massive for us in terms of giving everyone that belief that we can play the best team in the world." The second match of the series is at Wembley Arena on Wednesday.