After toiling throughout the first half, France made the breakthrough in the 72nd minute when substitute Loic Remy galloped on to Marvin Martin's high ball and beat Tim Howard in the visiting goal. Victory stretched France's unbeaten run to 16 matches, but coach Laurent Blanc will have been concerned by his side's lack of imagination, particularly in a soporific first half.
There was satisfaction for his opposite number, Jurgen Klinsmann, in the visitors' defensive robustness, although his record since he took the helm in July now reads: played six, won one, drawn one, lost four. France host Belgium on Tuesday in another friendly, with the US travelling to Slovenia.
True to his word, Blanc experimented with a bold 4-4-2 formation, but the pairing of Alou Diarra with Yann M'Vila in central midfield left France desperately short of creativity in central areas. After the tension of the 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Hercegovina that secured France's place at EURO 2012 last month, the game felt like an anti-climax and had a funereal atmosphere to match.
It took until the 20th minute for the hosts to muster an effort on goal, Karim Benzema curling over from wide on the left, while Franck Ribery's back-heel from a low Mathieu Debuchy cross could only find the side netting.
Most of France's early enterprise stemmed from the wide players, and they almost combined to good effect 10 minutes before the break when Ribery teed up Jeremy Menez, who fired over on the turn. The visitors' best chance saw Jozy Altidore drag wide of the near post after a neat piece of footwork left two defenders in his wake.
Despite Blanc making no changes at half-time, France started the second half positively and Benzema twice came close to breaking the deadlock. After hitting the bar from point-blank range with a diving header, moments later the Real Madrid striker forced Howard into an athletic save with a curling free-kick.
With the hour approaching, Montpellier striker Olivier Giroud and Lyon defensive midfielder Maxime Gonalons were introduced from the France bench for their international debuts. Ribery and Benzema were withdrawn shortly afterwards and Benzema's replacement, Remy, immediately found himself in the thick of the action.
Having stung Howard's gloves in the 69th minute, with Giroud blazing the rebound over, the Marseille striker broke the US resistance three minutes later, holding off Clarence Goodson to ram a low shot past Howard for his fourth international goal.
Giroud should have marked his debut with a goal of his own, but he shot wildly into the side netting when clean through in injury time. With two debutants in his back four -- Laurent Koscielny and Jeremy Mathieu -- Blanc will have been pleased to keep a clean sheet, but the nature of victory proved that France remain a work in progress.