The tourists may eventually have won by a convincing margin at Profert Olen Park but were given a tough workout by a South African scratch side who scored four tries themselves.
Jonny May also touched down twice for the tourists but their evening was soured by a serious-looking injury to wing Ugo Monye.
Monye did not get up after attempting to tackle Barbarians scrum-half Shaun Venter in the 27th minute and was carried off on a stretcher after lengthy treatment.
England also touched down through Ben Morgan and Anthony Allen while they also benefited from a penalty try and Charlie Hodgson scored 17 points.
It was a bruising encounter for a side starting with two of the players involved in the second Test loss in Johannesburg last weekend in Morgan and Lee Dickson.
Scrum-half Dickson, who made way for his brother Karl at half-time, was keen to make an impression as he battles with Danny Care for a third Test spot and made an early break.
But it was the hosts who registered first with a JC Roos penalty from halfway after a fight between Barbarians captain JW Jonker and Jordan Turner-Hall - one of several early signs of needle - was quelled.
England replied almost immediately with a Hodgson penalty and a couple of powerful tackles from Carl Fearns showed how seriously they were taking the game.
They were kept busy early on and the Barbarians stretched them as Jonker offloaded for Steyn and Joubert Engelbrecht burst down the left for a fine Roos-converted try.
England levelled after a good pass from Hodgson found Christian Wade and the winger dummied before sending Abdendanon over for his first.
England went ahead after 23 minutes when Turner-Hall held off a challenge and Morgan, perhaps with a point to prove after two quiet Test performances, was driven over.
Monye then suffered his sickening injury as his head caught the hip of Venter, who was attempting to pass, and appeared to be unconscious before he hit the ground.
England maintained their composure throughout the hold-up and almost extended their lead as Wade went over, only to be denied by the television match official.
But they were not long to be denied as Abendanon first rounded off a slick move under the posts and then pounced on a loose ball after a May kick rebounded off a defender.
With Hodgson kicking efficiently, England led 31-10 at the break.
Any thoughts they might ease to victory thereafter were quickly dispelled as the Barbarians responded strongly with two tries from Venter.
The scrum-half forced his way over from close range for his first before England were reduced to 14 men when Jamie Gibson was sinbinned for a late challenge.
The Barbarians drove forward again and Venter came up with another try after good work from Jaco Bouwer.
Roos' conversions brought the Barbarians back within seven points but England gave themselves breathing space as May, Monye's replacement, forced his way over in the corner.
Another quick break by May, only called up to the squad this week, almost brought him an immediate second try but the Gloucester man was stopped just short.
He did score again soon after, however, when he dived over from close range 10 minutes from time.
Allen then jumped over for another from close range after a good Karl Dickson run. England were awarded a late penalty try after Deon Scholtz scored the Barbarians' fourth with a breakaway effort.
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