Opener Joe Denly set England up for a face-saving four-wicket victory over Australia as they avoided a 7-0 NatWest Series whitewash at Chester-le-Street.
Denly shared in a first-wicket partnership of 106 with skipper Andrew Strauss, who fell three short of his 50 when he was caught reverse sweeping Nathan Hauritz, and went on to make 53 off 78 balls to lay the foundation for a win completed by a Ben Hilfenhaus no-ball, the 21st extra of the innings, with 59 balls to spare.
It looked like being a rare comfortable victory for Strauss' men, but they wobbled alarmingly after losing four wickets for 12 runs in the space of 27 balls with the finishing line in sight.
But if it was Denly and Strauss who put Australia to the sword, it was spinner Graeme Swann who rocked them on to the back foot with a career best one-day international return of five wickets for 28 runs as the tourists made just 176 off 45.5 overs.
Skipper Ricky Ponting made 53, in the process easing himself past Inzamam-ul-Haq into third place in the all-time scorers list on 11,756 runs, before he became Swann's first victim.
He was well-supported by Michael Clarke in a 79-run partnership for the third wicket, but only Mike Hussey otherwise backed up their efforts.