Sussex 172 for 8 (Wright 56, Hamilton-Brown 30) beat Surrey 171 for 7 (Roy 57, Wilson 50, Zaidi 3-32) by two wickets
Yasir Arafat was signed by Sussex for the third time to bring his considerable T20 experience to an attack that struggled last season. But his first dividend came in the form an unlikely cameo with the bat that saw him strike the last two balls for four to secure a breathless two-wicket victory for his side.
Sussex needed 16 off the last over and it all seemed to be going to plan for Surrey when Jade Dernbach conceded a single off the first delivery and then had Chris Jordan caught in the deep.
But Ben Brown sliced the third ball high over the extra-cover boundary for six then took a single and left the rest to Arafat. His first ball perfectly dissected the two boundary runners on the off side and the final delivery whizzed past Gary Wilson's despairing dive off a thick edge and down the slope to the third-man rope.
Sussex covet wins over their oldest rivals more than most so the celebrations that followed, as his team-mates ran from the dug out to engulf Arafat, were perhaps understandable.
On a two-paced pitch Surrey must have felt their score of 171 for 7 was defendable. But both attacks struggled for control at times. This was their first competitive run out with the white ball and at times the quicker bowlers in particular looked rusty while Dernbach's struggles at the end revived painful memories of his woes during the T20 World Cup.
Jason Roy (57 off 43 balls) and Gary Wilson (50 off 39) played well after they had got the measure of the conditions before Azhar Mahmood provided acceleration in that uncomplicated way of his at the end with 23 from 12 deliveries. For Sussex, Ashar Zaidi - whose most recent experience of this format was midweek hit and giggle for Accrington last summer - recovered from a poor first over to take 3 for 32 as bowlers who took the pace off prospered.
Matt Prior revealed earlier that he hopes to make his comeback in the Championship game against Middlesex on May 26, although he said it was too early in his recovery from an Achilles injury to say if he will be able to keep wicket as well.
In his absence Sussex are heavily reliant on Luke Wright's uncomplicated hitting and when he and Rory Hamilton-Brown added 55 in 38 balls for the third wicket they were in control. But debutant Tom Curran surprised Wright (56 off 31) with a change of pace before Kevin O'Brien picked up two wickets off successive balls in the 14th over to put Surrey in charge.
The hosts were further inconvenienced when Chris Nash needed a runner after hurting his hamstring but the mood of the crowd improved when, just as they had done in the first innings, umpires Ian Gould and Steve O'Shaughnessy penalised the fielding team with six runs for a slow over rate. Still, Dernbach would have fancied himself to defend 16 off the last over.
By the end the crowd had come to life but on the night T20 was re-launched amidst mch hype there was the sense at Hove that very little had changed.
On a warm late-Spring evening Sussex would have been disappointed had they not attracted the 5,000 who turned up. The ground was pleasantly full and the bars were doing a steady trade but apart from bursts of flames from on top of the scoreboard every time a boundary was scored it didn't feel much like a brave new beginning for a format which has always been popular in Sussex.