South Africa twice came back from forlorn positions to defeat a new-look Australia by three wickets in a thrilling opening to the one-day international summer at the MCG tonight.
Led by Albie Morkel, who made a match-winning 40 off only 18 balls, the Proteas capitalised on a well-chosen batting powerplay to plunder 18 runs off the 48th over, bowled by Ben Hilfenhaus, to steal a remarkable victory with three balls to spare.
Morkel delivered the final twist in a thrilling match which Australia had for the large part appeared destined to win.
The Proteas needed 50 off the final five overs but, aided by the powerplay, Morkel and Johan Botha carved a match-winning 51-run stand off only 35 balls.
After reaching an imposing 271 for eight, built largely on half-centuries from Shaun Marsh and David Hussey, the Proteas lost early wickets and were in big trouble when Jacques Kallis departed with the score on 90 for three in the 19th over.
But a 123-run stand between the irrepressible Jean-Paul Duminy and the hitherto out-of-form Neil McKenzie returned the momentum to the Proteas before Duminy's dismissal for 71 triggered another swing.
The Proteas lost four wickets for eight runs in less than three overs to slump to 221 for seven before the older Morkel brother and Botha put the Australians to the sword.
The pair were aided by a pair of costly misfields from Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken.
Tait's error gifted Morkel a boundary when only one should have been conceded, while Bracken's stumble allowed the Proteas to grab an extra two runs.
That came moments after Bracken had conceded 13 runs in the 47th over, which finished with a massive six from Morkel.
It was a devastating finish for the Australians, who until the final few overs were about to celebrate a win of substance.
Five of their less experienced players had been responsible for putting the home side in control.
Marsh, Hussey and to a lesser extent Cameron White made valuable contributions with the bat, before Hilfenhaus and Tait made important breakthroughs with the ball.
That pair had removed Herschelle Gibbs and Hashim Amla with the new ball then dismissed McKenzie and Mark Boucher during the Proteas' stumble.
Australia were also helped by a charitable fielding performance from the tourists.
Vaughn van Jaarsveld gave lives to Ricky Ponting and Hussey, and McKenzie reprieved Marsh.
Ponting and Hussey were the two most costly.
Ponting was dropped on 33 and lived to make 46, while Hussey's life enabled him to make 52 at better than a run a ball to lift Australia's run rate towards the end of their innings.
But Morkel's heroics at the death ensured the Proteas would not pay the ultimate price.