A match that could have ended in sobering defeat for England somehow turned into one of their most memorable T20 victories as Australia choked within sight of the finishing line.
For much of an evening on which the game's oldest rivalry entered the unprecedented territory of behind-closed-doors cricket, it had been England - not Australia - who looked like the side without a competitive run-out for six months.
But from 124 for one, needing a further 39 off 35 balls, the Australians contrived to lose five for 24, and ended up losing by two runs. It was a cock-up for the ages.
England players celebrate after they somehow salvaged T20 victory vs Australia on Friday
'There are no excuses,' said opening batsman David Warner, whose dismissal for 58, bowled leg stump by Jofra Archer, hastened their collapse. 'The guys were outplayed.' Perhaps the only consolation for the tourists was that spectators were not allowed in. The Ageas Bowl would have been heaving - and not in sympathy for the Australians.
And yet it was only at the very end that England grabbed the first game of this three-match series by its scruff. Archer, whose first two overs had cost an uninspiring 20, began the procession by having Australia's captain Aaron Finch caught at mid-off by Chris Jordan for 46.
Steve Smith hit his first two balls from Mark Wood for four, but hadn't moved beyond 18 when he heaved Adil Rashid to deep midwicket. Moments later, Glenn Maxwell took leave of his senses, chipping the final ball of Rashid's four-over spell to short extra cover.
Australia began to panic, even though they had five overs left to get 36 and seven wickets in hand. But Archer yorked Warner, before Wood - going round the wicket - removed the middle stump of left-hander Alex Carey.
Up stepped Tom Curran, with 26 required off three overs. He conceded only seven from the 18th, before Jordan - playing his 50th T20 international - went for just four singles in the 19th, and ran out Ashton Agar.
David Warner scored 58 for Australia but his dismissal was part of their abject batting collapse
Marcus Stoinis was Australia's last hope, and faced up to Curran with 15 wanted from the final six balls. A dot was followed by a booming six over extra cover, then another dot: nine needed off three. But Stoinis could do no more than take two off each of the last three balls - a notable feather in Curran's cap, and only Australia's second defeat in 10