Pakistan set aside cricket's corruption furore to level the NatWest Series at 2-2 with a 38-run victory over England at Lord's today.
The familiar controversies of the past three weeks heightened to the point that the match was in evident danger of being aborted for much of the morning.
But once an England and Wales Cricket Board statement, released with under an hour to go to the start, revealed that the hosts were prepared to take the field, it was Pakistan who began and finished the contest by far the best.
Abdul Razzaq's late hitting in a total of 265 for seven and Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul's skill and determination with ball in hand proved too much for England and meant the series will go down to Wednesday's last match.
Mohammad Hafeez (64) top-scored and shared the highest stand of Pakistan's innings as he and fellow opener Kamran Akmal put on 62 after Shahid Afridi won the toss, but it was Razzaq who inflicted the most damage.
He struck three fours and a six from the penultimate over off James Anderson and then smashed Tim Bresnan's last five balls for four.
Graeme Swann (four for 37) had stalled the tourists' progress, but Razzaq (44no) made the most of a late powerplay as 21 runs came from each of the last two overs.
In-form home captain Andrew Strauss had begun the day with a strongly-worded personal statement, refuting Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt's unexpected claims that England players had received "enormous sums of money" to deliberately lose the previous encounter at the Brit Oval on Friday.
When his chance came to let his bat do some talking, Strauss raced to a third successive half-century at the top of the order, but his 68 - and a 113-run opening stand with Steve Davies - was to prove in vain as Pakistan squeezed England's batsmen under the lights.
After Butt's bombshell and long discussions about how they should respond, the hosts could hardly be criticised if their collective state of mind was not at its optimum for an international match.
Pakistan, however - beset for so long by allegations of spot-fixing - played from the outset like a team without a care in the world.
England got their first breakthrough when Akmal mis-pulled Stuart Broad for a simple catch to midwicket, but Pakistan continued to operate at above four an over, despite the efforts of Swann on an end-of-season pitch offering him some turn.
He spun one through Asad Shafiq's attempted drive to disturb off-stump, had Mohammad Yousuf edging behind as he tried to cut and then ended Hafeez's 100-ball stay when his victim skewed the ball into the hands of short third-man.
Swann failed to impress Afridi, though, and the last ball of his 10 overs was deposited straight into the second tier of the pavilion for a six which struck an MCC member a nasty blow on the head.
Afridi had several more wake-up calls in store but was gone by the time Pakistan took their powerplay, delayed until mandatory in the final five overs.
Afridi got underneath a heave at Bresnan and the running catch at deep midwicket appeared to mean a lot to Strauss.
Umar Akmal was unable to live up to his reputation as one of the world's best limited-overs hitters, skying a catch behind off Broad, so it was left to Razzaq to target the boundaries and he did so superbly.
Strauss and Davies got England's chase off to a handsome start with Shoaib (three for 59) dispatched for 30 runs from his three new-ball overs as both left-handers pierced the field with ease.
Strauss had three let-offs, an assortment containing caught behind off a no-ball, a missed run-out chance and a very close call for lbw.
But Davies fell one short of his 50 when he inside-edged an attempted drive at Saeed Ajmal on to his stumps.
Jonathan Trott completed his regrettable day, after a pre-match bust-up with Pakistan squad player Wahab Riaz which required the attention of the match referee, by making a tortured four off 16 balls before he was bowled off bat and then pad by Afridi.
Trott's contribution probably did Strauss little good and two runs later the England captain cut aerially to point to depart during a much-improved second spell of one for six in four overs from Shoaib.
The off-colour Paul Collingwood's four came at an even worse strike rate than Trott's and by the time Eoin Morgan joined late call-up Ian Bell, England's Oval nemesis Gul (four for 32) was in full flight with the old ball again.
Bell drove Ajmal straight to cover and Michael Yardy chopped on off Shoaib, who was defying an apparent side injury to great effect.
Morgan had been reprieved on 10, dropped at extra-cover by Afridi off Hafeez, but there was not enough support left to help England's ingenious left-hander.
And once he holed out off Shoaib, it was clear a series which seemed in the bag two matches ago and has several times appeared in jeopardy from outside forces would limp on after all to a Rose Bowl finale.
Scoreboard: England v Pakistan
Lord's Pakistan beat England by 38 runs
Kamran Akmal c Strauss b Broad 28
Mohammad Hafeez c Trott b Swann 64
Shafiq b Swann 11
Mohammad Yousuf c S M Davies b Swann 3
Fawad Alam b Swann 29
Akmal c S M Davies b Broad 21
Shahid Afridi c Strauss b Bresnan 37
Abdul Razzaq not out 44
Umar Gul not out 5
Extras b2 lb17 w4 pens 0 23
Total 7 wkts Innings Complete (50 overs) 265
Fall: 1-62 2-86 3-94 4-137 5-155 6-209 7-210
Did Not Bat: Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar.
Bowling: Bresnan 10 0 62 1
Anderson 10 1 54 0
Broad 10 0 44 2
Yardy 7 0 39 0
Swann 10 0 37 4
Collingwood 3 0 10 0
A J Strauss c Fawad Alam b Shoaib Akhtar 68
S M Davies b Ajmal 49
I J L Trott b Shahid Afridi 4
I R Bell c Sub b Ajmal 27
P D Collingwood b Umar Gul 4
E J G Morgan c Mohammad Yousuf b Shoaib A 28
M H Yardy b Shoaib Akhtar 9
T T Bresnan b Umar Gul 1
G P Swann b Umar Gul 12
S C J Broad b Umar Gul 2
J M Anderson not out 2
Extras b4 lb1 w14 nb2 pens 0 21
Total (46.1 overs) 227
Fall: 1-113 2-125 3-127 4-149 5-171 6-197 7-205 8-211 9-224
Bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 10 0 59 3
Abdul Razzaq 7 0 42 0
Umar Gul 8.1 0 32 4
Mohammad Hafeez 7 0 27 0
Ajmal 7 0 31 2
Shahid Afridi 7 0 31 1