Debutant Chris Woakes was the match-winner as England claimed a record eighth consecutive Twenty20 victory with a last-ball win over Australia in Adelaide.
Paul Collingwood's side snuck across the line despite a late collapse, inspired by Shane Watson's career-best figures of four for 15, as Woakes hit his final ball for the single needed for victory.
England were indebted to some choking bowling at the death to restrict Australia to 157 for four after the impressive Watson (59) and fellow opener David Warner (30) combined for 83 from 52 balls.
Michael Yardy was the pick as his gentle spin yielded two for 27.
England had looked on course in their chase before Watson claimed four late wickets, including the crucial dismissal of Eoin Morgan for 43, to create a tense finish.
Needing four from Watson's final over Graeme Swann, who had earlier been hit for a hat-trick of sixes by the opener, was bowled attempting an ill-conceived pull.
Last man Ajmal Shahzad stoked the tension when he failed to score off the next two balls, but a scrambled single got Woakes on strike and he cut the next ball for two to level scores.
The 21-year-old then lofted a drive to claim the winning run and give England a 1-0 lead ahead of the final game of the series in Melbourne on Friday.
Ian Bell was recalled to play his first Twenty20 in two-and-a-half years while Woakes was handed his England debut.
England's players revealed before the game they would donate some of their match fees to the victims of the Queensland floods, but it was the Australians who were in a charitable mood early in England's chase.
Bell was twice dropped in Shaun Tait's opening two overs, initially from the first ball of the innings when Steve O'Keefe spilled a simple chance at square leg.
Bell responded with three boundaries in the over before Steve Davies lasted two balls, slicing Brett Lee for four before driving to Cameron White at cover.
Bell survived for the second time when a cut shot jarred out of the hands of David Warner after he dived to his left at gully.
Again Bell immediately profited as he uppercut Tait over third man for six as Australia's quick men conceded 45 from the first four overs.
Bell's luck ran out in the fifth over, from Mitchell Johnson, when he directed another full-blooded shot to Steve Smith to depart for a 17-ball 27.
Pietersen was then out in the next from O'Keefe, having greeted his gentle spin with a four and six, only to mis-time the third ball to mid-off.
England were, however, ahead of the rate and could afford to pick their moments to attack.
When Eoin Morgan did so he did with authority, hooking Lee into the second tier of the new Western Stand and following it with a lofted drive for four.
Collingwood (16) looked set to anchor behind Morgan's heavy hitting but he top-edged a reverse scoop off his elbow to give Tim Paine a simple catch.
Luke Wright was then trapped plumb in front for a duck shuffling across to Tait before England lost the finishing class of Morgan (43) when he picked out cover from Watson's bowling.
Yardy edged the next ball through to Paine to give Australia renewed belief with England 130 for seven.
Woakes clubbed Tait for six but Watson struck again when Bresnan holed out to a running catch from Lee.
Watson then claimed Swann in the final over but Woakes held his nerve.
Australia were given a flying start as Watson and Warner put on 83 in 52 balls.
Watson took three boundaries from Woakes' second over, which cost 14, and not even a broken bat could slow him as the handle was bent back by a punishing cut shot.
Graeme Swann then endured a humourless introduction into the attack when Watson sent his first three deliveries disappearing over the mid-wicket rope.
The right-hander then brought up his half-century, from 26 balls, with a straight four as Swann's first over cost 26.
Yardy stopped Watson in full flow though, angling a ball past an attempted cut after an entertaining 59 from 31 balls.
Yardy then had Warner caught on the mid-wicket rope and with the openers gone Australia's scoring started to slow appreciably.
New batsmen Cameron White and David Hussey used 25 balls in a stand of 23 before the new Australia skipper gave Woakes his first international wicket, caught in the deep by Pietersen for six.
Bresnan was slapped for six by Hussey (28) but bowled him next ball as the hosts continued to be frustrated by some choking lines.
Yardy dropped Steve Smith in the last over from Shahzad and while the hosts took 13 from it, they had failed to fully capitalise on a brisk start to finish on 157 for four.