Graeme Swann claimed career-best bowling figures as England avoided a series whitewash with a four-wicket win over Australia in the seventh one-day international at Riverside.
Swann ripped through the tourists' middle order to finish with five for 28 as Australia were bowled out for 176 from 45.5 overs.
In reply a 106-run opening stand between Andrew Strauss (47) and Joe Denly (53) ensured a nervous England batting line-up could still afford another middle-order hiccup in reaching their target with 10 overs to spare.
The hosts wobbled momentarily when they lost four wickets for 12 to leave the Chester-le-Street crowd holding their breath.
But it was Durham local Paul Collingwood - on his return from a three-match rest - who steadied matters with an unbeaten 13 that proved important in the circumstances.
It was relief for England who not only avoided the indignity of a 7-0 whitewash, but also found a fraction of form heading into this week's Champions Trophy in South Africa.
For Australia, defeat meant their time at the top of the ICC one-day international rankings lasted just three days, after their 111-run win at Trent Bridge on Thursday night had lifted them above South Africa.
England's openers were aided early on by a rusty Ben Hilfenhaus, playing his first game of the series, who bowled five no-balls on way to conceding 32 from his first four overs.
The Tasmanian's fifth over contained three no-balls, including a head-high beamer at Denly, who used the free-hits to twice find the boundary.
The openers had effortlessly progressed the score past 100 after 20 overs when Strauss (47) reverse-swept Nathan Hauritz to offer Hilfenhaus a simple chance.
Denly reached his first 50 of the series, but when he was run out by Ponting for 53 England wobbled.
Ravi Bopara (13) was trapped lbw by Shane Watson, before Owais Shah (seven) and Eoin Morgan (two) were both caught by wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Matt Prior (11) also fell when chipping a drive off Hilfenhaus to Ponting at cover, but Collingwood stood firm before Hilfenhaus obligingly conceded the winning run with a no-ball.
Earlier, Swann bowled unchanged for his allocation of 10 overs and turn the game England's way after claiming the prize wicket of Australia skipper Ricky Ponting for 53 in his first over.
Ponting had again looked in good touch after earlier marking his class by passing former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq's 11,739 one-day runs and becoming the third highest scorer in the form of the game.
The Tasmanian went on to his notch his 68th ODI half-century, but when Swann drew him into offering a catch to Collingwood at short mid-wicket Australia lost their last eight wickets for 80 runs.
New-ball pair James Anderson and Graham Onions made use of a lively wicket early to remove openers Watson (duck) and Paine (four) inside the opening four overs.
But it was Swann who did the damage, claiming the prize scalp of Ponting after he had added the majority of a 79-run stand with his vice-captain Michael Clarke.
The spinner flighted a ball Ponting failed to get to the pitch of and could only jam a drive to Collingwood at short mid-wicket.
Soon after Clarke's watchful 38 from 81 balls was ended with a run out. Morgan's quick pick up and throw from point found him short and five balls later Swann found sharp turn to get through the defence of Cameron White (one) and leave Australia 112 for five.
Swann claimed the next three wickets as well to secure his first one-day five-for and wreck Australia's middle order.
James Hopes (11) and Mitchell Johnson (10) were both out offering simple leading-edge catches, while Lee lasted two balls before Swann again hit the stumps with a ball that turned sharply.
Shah also weighed in for a wicket with his gentle off-spin when Hauritz (three) offered a simple return catch.
Mike Hussey hit Anderson for a towering six into the second tier of the stands as Australia took the batting powerplay, but next over he was out one short of his 50 when driving Tim Bresnan to Denly.