Andre Nel hit two of the final three deliveries for four as South Africa chased down a target of 249 from the final delivery to win the first one-day international against New Zealand by two wickets at Kingsmead.
No.10 batsman Nel dispatched Mark Gillespie through the off-side twice in a row and then carved out the winning single to rescue South Africa after a middle-order collapse looked to have doomed their run chase.
Abraham de Villiers made 87 to allow South Africa to overcome the early loss of Morne van Wyk (0) and Jacques Kallis (1), both of whom fell during Kyle Mills' impressive opening spell.
De Villiers shared stands worth 91 with Graeme Smith (44) and 72 with Jean-Paul Duminy for the third and fourth wickets respectively.
But his dismissal, caught and bowled by Daniel Vettori (1-47), was the start of a spectacular implosion by the middle-order.
Chris Martin (1-65) had Duminy caught for 46, the first of four wickets to go down in the space of 3.4 overs that left South Africa struggling at 238-8, requiring 11 runs from the final seven deliveries.
Mills removed Shaun Pollock (6), Albie Morkel (0) and Johan Botha (6) to complete his first five-wicket haul in one-day internationals.
Mark Boucher (35no) failed to make contact with the final delivery of the 49th over to leave his side still needing 11 from Gillespie's final six balls.
Nel heaved and missed at the first delivery, and then picked up a single when Scott Styris failed to cling on to a steepling catch as he ran back into the off-side. Boucher eked out a leg-bye to place his partner back on strike with nine required from the final three balls.
And Nel (10no) salvaged the result by twice drilling full deliveries to the extra cover boundary, and then clearing the off-side with the final delivery to seal a two-wicket success.
Earlier, Jamie How contributed 90 to New Zealand's total of 248-6 after they had been asked to bat.
How shared a second wicket stand of 72 with Brendon McCullum after Makhaya Ntini (1-62) bowled Lou Vincent for six in the fourth over.
Veteran medium pacer Pollock kept the run-rate in check with figures of 0-21 from his 10 overs, which were bowled in two spells and included four maidens.
South Africa had to wait until the 22nd over to make the second breakthrough when off-spinner Botha (1-44) yorked McCullum for 40.
The steady rate of scoring continued during a 75-run, third-wicket partnership between How and Styris.
Styris had worked the ones and twos to compile 40 from 45 balls before becoming the first of three victims for Nel.
How had reached 90 from 124 balls, including 11 boundaries, when he was bowled by Nel with the third delivery of the 48th over.
Gareth Hopkins departed in the same manner for a golden duck from Nel's next delivery, but Matthew Sinclair - playing his first one-day international for almost three years - blasted an unbeaten 32 from 23 balls to ensure the Black Caps batted through to a competitive total.