The South Americans looked vulnerable when Wayne Rooney levelled matters in the 75th minute after Luis Suarez's first-half header had given his side the lead.
But Liverpool star Suarez - making his return after undergoing minor knee surgery just four weeks ago - responded with a blistering late strike to earn Uruguay a crucial three points.
Tabarez's team lost their Group D opener 3-1 to Costa Rica last Saturday, meaning a win in Sao Paulo on Thursday was vital to their hopes of reaching the last 16.
And the coach was thrilled with the attitude of his players.
"Maybe we do not have a very attractive form of football but we keep fighting. The players love their country," he said.
While Suarez will understandably earn the plaudits for inspiring Uruguay's victory, Tabarez pinpointed his strike partner Edinson Cavani - whose wonderful pass set up the opener - as a key man.
"Cavani did a tremendous job today. He helped neutralise (England captain) Steven Gerrard," he added.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.