England could only take a point away from Montenegro despite a bright first half which saw them take the lead through Wayne Rooney's 35th international goal after six minutes. Substitute Dejan Damjanovic equalised in a second-half dominated by the hosts.
Twice Joe Hart was forced to make stupendous saves in the second period as the visitors found it impossible to relieve the pressure around their goal. Damjanovic eventually found the net, prodding home from close range to defy further heroics from Hart and Joleon Lescott.
It was the least Montenegro deserved, even though Steven Gerrard almost won it for England in stoppage time, and keeps the hosts two points clear at the head of Group H.
When England head to Brazil for a friendly in June, Montenegro will entertain Ukraine knowing that victory will represent a serious barrier to manager Hodgson's hopes of heading to Rio via automatic qualification.
Sent off in this stadium 18 months ago for a needless foul that ruined his chances of making a positive impact at UEFA EURO 2012, Rooney was eager to impress. There was no sense of anxiety about the chip he sent spinning over Mladen Bozovic's head just three minutes into the contest as England launched one of their many blistering attacks.
Unfortunately for England, the ball came bouncing back off the base of a post. Undeterred, the visitors continued to attack at speed. And when Bozovic got the faintest of touches to a Glen Johnson piledriver, it provided Steven Gerrard with the opportunity to seek Rooney out with a corner that he directed home with the minimum of disruption.
It made Rooney the first England player to score in four successive qualifying matches since David Beckham in 2003 and briefly silenced a noisy home contingent. Montenegro did improve after that. But so did England. The excellent James Milner fired wide before Rooney dropped a cross just over the head of Welbeck, who had started the move in the first place.
An erratic bounce on a difficult pitch cost Rooney the chance to turn home a Milner cross from the tightest of angles.
Montenegro improve, England falter
Montenegro were expected to improve in the second half and Stevan Jovetic gave an early warning when he planted his far-post header into the side-netting after Savic had crossed, and half-time substitute Damjanovic had an effort blocked as he turned quickly onto Mirko Vucinic's lay-off.
As England creaked and they started to give the ball away with regularity, Vucinic was presented with a glorious chance which he snatched at and lashed over.
The pressure became relentless, with Gerrard among those culpable for getting dragged into an overwhelming desire to attack when the more necessary task was for England to remain solid and protect their lead.
On another break, Jovetic fed Vucinic to his right but the Montenegro skipper's shot curled just wide. Jovetic brought a superb save out of Hart before hitting the post from the corner.
Another brilliant reaction save from Hart kept them in front. But the reprieve lasted only seconds as, in the scramble that followed, Damjanovic found the net.
Belatedly, England rediscovered their earlier zest. And Bozovic was lucky to get away with some sloppy handling in stoppage time as he allowed Gerrard's free-kick to slither through his fingers, with just enough force to send it over the bar.