Sussex 185 for 9 (Billings 46, Robinson 3-35) beat Sussex 178 for 6 (Nash 61) by seven runs
Kent pace duo Mitch Claydon and David Griffiths held their nerve at the death to clinch Kent's edgy seven-run win over Sussex Sharks in the first round of this year's NatWest T20 Blast South Group.
Chasing 186 to win at an asking rate of 9.3 an over, the Sharks came up short as Coles bagged two wickets in as many balls, to leave Griffiths to polish the job off with a tight final over. It was Kent's first win of the season in any format.
Sussex had made a brisk start to their pursuit as skipper and T20 specialist Luke Wright in tandem with the experienced Chris Nash powered to an opening stand of 81 inside 7.4 overs.
Wright, who boasts short-form experience aplenty having starred in the IPL and Big Bash, showed all his class with a stunning cover drive off David Griffiths that sailed over the ropes for six over extra cover.
The introduction of James Tredwell accounted for Wright when he chipped the off-spinner's fourth delivery down the throat of Alex Blake at long-on.
Sri Lankan batting legend Mahela Jayawardene sidled in to play the shot of the night, an effortless, wristy flick over mid-wicket off Coles that sailed for six as he and Nash added 31 for the second wicket.
Nash posted the only 50 of the evening from 37 balls with nine fours, but then blotted his copybook by charging down the pitch to lose his middle stump to Matt Coles.
Coles celebrated again when he picked up Jawawardene with a loose delivery that the 37-year-old right-hander miscued to Joe Denly at cow corner.
With 32 still needed from the final three overs the Sussex run chase came undone. Matt Machan was run out attempting a second, Ben Brown nicked to his Kent counterpart Sam Billings then, to Claydon's next ball, Will Beer drove lamely to mid-off to make it 167 for 6.
With 18 needed of the last over, bowled by Griffiths, Craig Cachopa nurdled a boundary over fine leg for four but an athletic stop at long on by Alex Blake and a four more Griffiths yorkers held Sussex at bay.
Having won the toss, Kent lost in-form opening bat Daniel Bell-Drummond for only a single eight balls into the match. Fresh from two hundreds in successive four-day games, Bell-Drummond edged an attempted slash drive off the bowling of Oliver Robinson into the keeper's gloves.
Spitfires regrouped smoothly through acting skipper Sam Northeast and Denly who added 64 at 10 an over before Denly missed an attempted slog-sweep against the off-spin of Michael Yardy to go for 37.
Northeast and Billings struggled to maintain the tempo once Sharks to turned to spin at both ends, but Beer dropped short allowing Billings to pull for four and raise the Kent 100 in the 12th over.
Beer had his revenge, accounting for Northeast for 40 from 29 balls, then Stevens timed a back-foot force so sweetly it flew into the hands of Robinson on the ropes at deep extra cover to depart for only two.
Kent top-scorer Billings cleared the ropes over the bowlers head twice on his way to 46 from 28 balls but he missed an audacious sweep against Robinson to be bowled and make it 134 for 5.
Blake should have cleared the ropes when he flat-batted a short one from Robinson over deep mid-wicket but a slight miscue saw him caught out on the ropes by Chris Liddle.
Coles chipped to mid-wicket, Fabian Cowdrey was bowled aiming a switch-hit and Tredwell also perished in the quest for late runs to a fine overhead catch by Beer at mid-on as Kent fell 15 short of posting 200.
Beer, with one for 19, was the Sharks most economic bowler, but it was Robinson who took the fielding plaudits for his 3 for 35 to go with a brace of catches.