Sterling scored one and assisted three in an absorbing encounter at St. Mary’s, meaning he has now bagged eight goals for club and country in just seven matches so far this term.
Kosovo took a shock lead after 35 seconds but Sterling’s close-range header saw England equalise moments later - his eighth goal in his last eight international matches.
He then turned provider, bursting forward towards the heart of the Kosovan defence before slipping Harry Kane in on goal. The Tottenham striker, ruthless as ever, powered the ball past City’s Aro Muric in the Kosovo goal.
An own goal made it 3-1, before Sterling set up Jadon Sancho for England’s fourth.
It was mesmerising stuff from the 24-year-old, who then got his third assist just before half-time, skinning Amir Rrahmani down the line before squaring for Sancho to tap home his second.
England were 5-1 up at half-time, with Sterling directly involved in four of them.
But the game altered dramatically when Kosovo hit back with two quick goals just after half-time to make it 5-3, before Muric produced an outstanding save to deny Kane from the penalty spot.
Sterling struck the post late on to deny him his second as the drama continued, before England played keep-ball to nullify the Kosovo threat and see out the game.
England remain unbeaten in qualifiers – World Cup or European Championships – for a decade, and they sit top of Group A with four wins from four and 19 goals scored.
TRAINING | Tuesday tune-up ahead of Norwich trip
POTM | Trio up for Etihad award
Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva assisted two goals at Portugal beat Lithuania 5-1 away from home in Group B. Cristiano Ronaldo scored four, before William Carvalho added another late on. They sit second in the table, with eight points from four games.
And Oleksandr Zinchenko scored his second goal in as many games for Ukraine as they drew 2-2 with Nigeria in a friendly match.