And they were gifted a penalty when Kyle Walker carelessly elbowed Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Sassi levelled from the spot with a cool penalty in the 35th.
England will try to get off to a better start in the 2018 FIFA World Cup than it did in the 2014 tournament when it opens Group G play against Tunisia at 1 p.m. CDT Monday at Volgograd Arena in Volgograd, Russia.
Lingard should have doubled England's lead in the 25 minute when he met a left-sided cross from Ashley Young at the back post, but he scuffed his volley inches wide.
"Winning the first game is always massive".
Rooney is England's all-time scorer in global matches, scoring 53 goals in 119 matches.
"I thought we played really well, especially in the first half, and deserved to be ahead".
Gunman wounds 2 at Walmart store before being fatally shot by bystander
A gunman wounded two people before being fatally shot by a bystander at a Walmart store in Washington state Sunday evening. However, thanks to an armed civilian's quick thinking, the suspect was shot before anyone else could be injured or killed.
As half-time approached England worked a clever free-kick situation with the ball falling to Lingard unmarked, but he could only hit his shot against a defender. They were trying to grab hold and stop us running.
Gareth Southgate's men nearly paid a heavy price for missing a slew of first-half chances when Tunisia's Ferjani Sassi slotted home a softly-awarded penalty 20 minutes before half-time.
England boss Gareth Southgate says he would have been proud of his players' performance even if they had drawn their World Cup opener against Tunisia.
It's clear they have a very literal game-changer in Kane, but until the rest of the squad start performing their own jobs with the same efficacy, this England team risks collapsing in similar circumstance to previous squads. But England struggled to finish it off.
"I felt positive at 1-1, [but] the pace did drop off a bit", said Jordan Henderson.
Kane - who else? - popped up to break Tunisian hearts and the reaction of those in the BBC Sport studio was priceless.
"In the end it's unfortunately a negative result for us", Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri said.