Middlesex 174 for 3 (Malan 86, Denly 52*) beat Essex 170 for 8 (Rutherford 38) by seven wickets
Dawid Malan tamed Essex's Australian pace ace Shaun Tait at Lord's as his 55-ball 86 helped to propel Middlesex to a seven-wicket victory in a Friends Life t20 South Group game played before a crowd of almost 20,000.
Tait conceded 17 runs from his third over as Malan's assault, including one remarkable six over extra cover, led a thrilling chase after Essex had posted a challenging 170 for 8 from their 20 overs.
In the end, with Joe Denly unbeaten on 52 from 35 balls, Middlesex got home with two balls to spare after Adam Voges had been run out for 17 attempting a second to win the game from the second ball of the last over, bowled by Ravi Bopara.
Adam Rossington then came in to flick the second ball he faced to the long-leg boundary to complete a fine Middlesex performance, in which a 93-run stand in nine overs between Malan and Denly ultimately made the difference.
Malan dominated an opening stand of 37 in five overs with Paul Stirling, who had made only 5 when he lifted a Graham Napier full toss straight to deep square leg, and Denly was soon into his stride when he slog-swept Greg Smith for six.
Seventeen runs from the 11th over, bowled by Reece Topley, and then 11 off Bopara in the next prompted Essex captain James Foster to bring back Tait. But three of his first four balls were wides and then Malan hit him for his memorable six and a flicked four behind square leg.
He hit three sixes and 10 fours overall before holing out off left-arm spinner Tim Phillips at the start of the 15th over. Denly, however, slog-sweeping Smith for another six, made sure Middlesex's victory surge did not run out of steam and, with Voges also chipping in, only 10 runs were needed from the last two overs.
Earlier, the Essex innings had been launched in spectacular style by Hamish Rutherford and Mark Pettini, who put on 59 with a barrage of big hits before Rutherford, the New Zealand left-hander, was leg-before to Toby Roland-Jones from the last ball of the fifth over.
Twenty runs had already come from the over, with Rutherford picking up two of his three sixes with legside blows as he sped to 38 from just 17 balls. He had earlier swung his compatriot Kyle Mills high over the wide long-on boundary and also hit four fours in an excellent cameo.
Pettini, who needed a runner after being hit painfully on the inner thigh by a ball from Roland-Jones, still managed a 26-ball 37 with three sixes and three fours before being bowled by Ravi Patel, the 21-year-old slow left-arm spinner making an impressive Twenty20 debut.
Patel conceded just 17 runs from his four-over allocation, found good spin and looks a fine prospect. With Voges, the Australian, also picking up 2 for 21 from his four overs of left-arm spin, the Essex innings was reined in somewhat during the middle overs.
But Napier - coming in mysteriously low at number nine and ridiculously late with just two overs remaining - blasted two sixes and two fours in an eight-ball 24 to boost the total to defendable proportions.
Bopara, meanwhile, batted sensibly to reach 32 not out from 28 balls, slog-sweeping Stirling for successive fours in an 18th over that cost 14 runs. Essex, thanks to Napier and Bopara, plundered 44 from the last three overs after Middlesex had previously pegged back an innings racing along at 63 for 1 after the initial six-over Powerplay to 126 for 6 after 17.
Owais Shah was unluckily run out for 11, backing up, when Smith's straight drive was deflected on to the bowler's stumps by Patel, but Smith, Ryan ten Doeschate and Foster all fell cheaply to spin - Foster hitting an awful long hop from the first ball of Malan's leg spin straight to short extra cover.