Tim Bresnan and Jonathan Trott helped England do just enough at Old Trafford today to add NatWest Series victory to this summer's Test success against Sri Lanka.
Trott (72) shared a stand of 108 with Eoin Morgan (57) to ensure England did not entirely squander Craig Kieswetter and Alastair Cook's brilliant start to what proved a faltering 268 for nine.
Then Bresnan (three for 49) nipped out two of three wickets with the new ball and returned to shift the determined Kumar Sangakkara.
The contest was still far from done, as Angelo Mathews (62) and Jeevan Mendis added to the good work from Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal (54) in a century stand which took Sri Lanka to the brink of an unlikely victory.
But England held their nerve to prevail by 16 runs to take the series 3-2, as Sri Lanka's last four wickets fell in five balls.
As befitted a seesaw tussle throughout the past two weeks, England several times allowed their apparent advantage to be eroded if never overhauled.
First, three wickets fell for just 14 runs in their shambolic early batting powerplay - and then six more for the addition of only 40 wrecked England's charge in the last 10 overs as Suraj Randiv finished with five for 42. Sri Lanka's reply descended to 29 for three.
Bresnan had debutant opener Dimuth Karunaratne edging some width to slip in his first over, and followed up when Tillakaratne Dilshan hooked straight to long-leg.
Jade Dernbach ought to have held a similarly straightforward catch in the same position when Mahela Jayawardene clipped Bresnan aerially off his legs.
But there was relief for him, and England, because Jayawardene soon played another uncharacteristically faulty shot to be caught at mid-off.
Sangakkara and Chandimal responded with a stand of 94.
Lord's centurion Chandimal committed entirely to the shot whenever he went for broke, and chose his moments well until - aiming for a third six, to add to his five fours, he launched himself off his feet at Graeme Swann and missed to be stumped by yards.
Sangakkara also went, two runs short of 50, when Bresnan returned with a hint of unlikely seam movement off a bare surface to have the left-hander edging on to his stumps - and from 131 for five and two new men at the crease, Sri Lanka had much to do at the 30-over mark.
Mathews and Mendis began with just three runs between them but kept England and a sell-out crowd guessing, until the left-hander holed out in the leg-side deep off Samit Patel in the 47th over.
After two more wickets in successive deliveries, Randiv run out without striking, Lasith Malinga hit his first ball from James Anderson for six.
But the penultimate over from Dernbach began with Mathews safely held by Bresnan in the off-side ring off a slower ball - and then Malinga was bowled in a breathless finish. Kieswetter and Cook's opening stand of 85 had come up in under 13 overs, after the home captain had chosen to bat first under initial cloud cover.
It took their gains since they were previously last parted, at Lord's last weekend, to 256 in only 36.4 overs.
The 50 arrived at much better than a run-a-ball, Sri Lanka not helping themselves with some moderate fielding and new-ball bowling.
The hosts' hectic early progress was seamless - until, having taken the powerplay after only 12 overs, they duly lost their first wicket.
England's bold early ploy to keep the field up proved to be cursed.
Cook was out of his ground trying to carve Randiv beyond the off-side ring, but missed the turn and was easily stumped.
Only four balls and two runs later, Kieswetter was undone by low bounce from Dhammika Prasad as he was bowled on the back foot.
Then Kevin Pietersen went cheaply when the same bowler this time got one to bounce more than expected to have his man caught behind.
Trott and Morgan therefore needed to start again to put England back on course.
But they had the comfort zone of the outstanding early run rate already established, and did not need to take undue risk in the middle overs.
They are each expert at rotating the strike and avoiding dot balls, and did so even as Sri Lanka kept the field up in their own powerplay.
Morgan's was slightly the quicker, from 54 balls, of twin half-centuries which contained only three boundaries between them.
Angled and reverse bats were the preferred method, with two straight-driven fours from Trott the only notable exceptions.
Even with Morgan gone - stumped on the charge at Dilshan - and then Ian Bell chipping a catch just within the reach of wide long-on, England had a favourable 40-over foundation of 228 for five and a senior batsman well set.
Trott was to fall unluckily, though, somehow mispulling Randiv on to his body and back down on to his stumps - and the England tail failed to cope as the off-spinner completed his maiden five-wicket haul.
Fortunately, their two substantial partnerships had put them sufficiently ahead of the game to just about narrowly keep Sri Lanka at bay with bat and then ball.Reuse content