Another excellent innings from Alex Hales against Sri Lanka could not prevent England from slipping to a nine-run defeat in the one-off Twenty20 International at the Oval.
Having made England's first - and only - century in the shortest format of the game against the same opponents at the ICC World Twenty20 earlier this year, opener Hales managed a top score of 66 for the hosts.
However they still fell short in their bid to overhaul Sri Lanka's total of 183-7 that owed much to Thisara Perera's brutal knock of 49 in the closing stages.
Although some desperate late hitting by Ravi Bopara (28 not out) left the equation at 12 needed off the last two balls, Suranga Lakmal conceded just two singles to finish.
England will look back and lament a costly miss in the field, Michael Carberry, who was not helped by the close presence of skipper Eoin Morgan, spilling a skier that would have seen off Perera when he had 20 to his name.
It did not take long for the all-rounder to make them pay, Chris Jordan going for 22 from the final five deliveries of his spell. The left-hander was denied recording the fastest T20 half-century for Sri Lanka when he was run out off the final ball of the innings, just the 20th he'd faced.
Still, his power hitting gave his team just the finish they needed to an innings that had seen them lose wickets just when they seemed to be gaining momentum.
Tillekaratne Dilshan (14) swept the first ball of the match from Joe Root for four but both he and fellow opener Kusal Perera, who managed a six and a four in his 10, perished with the score on 24.
Twenty20 debutant Kithuruwan Vithanage dominated a third-wicket stand of 54, taking Ravi Bopara for three successive boundaries before cutting Chris Woakes out to Carberry to depart for 38.
Lahiru Thirimanne had contributed just 15 runs in the partnership but did begin to blossom as his innings progressed, hitting a six and three fours as he made 40.
Yet when he hit impressive debutant Harry Gurney (2-26) out to the bowler's Nottinghamshire team-mate Hales in the deep, England had reduced Sri Lanka to 141-6 with just 17 deliveries remaining.
Perera, though, hit five fours and a six in the closing stages and with Nuwan Kulasekara also managing a late boundary, their total always looked competitive.
So it proved, with the home team's new-look top order struggling up front. Carberry - the fourth oldest T20 debutant for England - mustered seven, while Root and Morgan contributed just five runs apiece.
Ian Bell did reach double figures batting at No 3, though he used up 17 deliveries to make 13 before falling to the exceptional Lasith Malinga (3-28).
The paceman then returned to devastating effect in the closing stages; he cleaned up Hales with a superb slower ball and then leaked just four runs from the penultimate over, in stark contrast to England's earlier efforts.
Jos Buttler blazed 26 and Bopara at least kept the contest alive for as long as possible. In the end, though, Malinga and Sri Lanka held their nerve. They will hope to use the result as a springboard for success in the five-match one-day series, the first game of which takes place at the same venue on Thursday.