After seven days of the most one-sided Test cricket you could witness the first one-day international produced a thriller as James Franklin proved New Zealand's hero to secure a one-wicket victory with an unbeaten 47.
Chasing an undemanding 208 the game had appeared to have gone when they were eight down still needing 69, but Kyle Mills helped add 47 for the ninth wicket before Mitchell McClenaghan survived six deliveries to allow Franklin to pick off the remaining 22 runs.
Until the final moments it always felt as though South Africa had their noses in front and there was a chance for them to win the match when Franklin, taking a risk in Dale Steyn's final over, edged just wide of Quinton de Kock, the debutant keeper, who went with two hands when one might have given him a better chance.
Franklin managed to keep the strike to face Ryan McLaren, another who had an impressive match, and ramped a short ball brilliantly over the keeper before carving the winning boundary through the off side. There was plenty of emotion in New Zealand's celebrations.
It was a game low on batting quality but high on tension in the closing stages. The required rate was never out of hand for New Zealand, which enabled Franklin and Mills to just take whatever runs were on offer and protect their wickets. When McLaren took out three middle-order wickets he seemed to have decided the match but Mills showed up some of the top-order batting and Franklin offered a riposte to those who feel he should not be playing.
McLaren's fourth, to give him a career-best haul to follow his useful 33 with the bat, swung the game back South Africa's way but McClenaghan kept his cool and kept in line to ensure his figures of 4 for 20, the best by a New Zealand bowler on ODI debut, contributed to a victory rather than a consolation.
That had not appeared likely after another stuttering display from the top order. Martin Guptill was run out without facing after AB de Villiers, having passed away the keeping gloves, swooped at cover. Lonwabo Tsotsobe struck twice, having Rob Nicol taken at slip and Kane Williamson at point to leave New Zealand 21 for 3. A familiar collapse was on the cards.
BJ Watling and Brendon McCullum gave the innings some foundation with a stand of 52 before another slip. Rory Kleinveldt trapped McCullum lbw in curious fashion; a power outage had struck the ground which meant no DRS was available and McCullum had wanted to review the decision. Kleinveldt, another of the debutants in the game, claimed a second when Grant Elliott flashed to slip to hand Graeme Smith his 100th ODI catch.
When McLaren struck twice in three balls - Watling dragging on and Jimmy Neesham lbw - New Zealand were 105 for 7 but Nathan McCullum offered hope with a punchy innings and that mood was carried forward. South Africa will reflect that they were not at their best, conceding 15 wides and three no-balls.
Their innings was a curious display, perhaps with a hint of complacency after their dominance in the Tests, with the tone set by Hashim Amla's ugly shot across the line. When de Villiers was lbw to the impressive McClenaghan they were 37 for 3 and forced to rebuild, but each time a partnership started to form New Zealand broke though. McCleanaghan later returned to add two more scalps, including a beauty from round the wicket to take Steyn's off stump.
Williamson was the surprise package with the ball, claiming a career-best 4 for 22 with his part-time offspin after New Zealand filled their side with allrounders. His first three scalps were all set batsmen: Colin Ingram, brilliantly caught off a top-edged sweep, McLaren who probably did not get an edge and the key figure of du Plessis taken at deep midwicket.
Du Plessis and McLaren formed the best stand of the innings, adding 59 for the sixth wicket, which included taking 41 off the Powerplay but South Africa felt a frontline batsman light as they did in the one-day series against England last year. The stand had given them hope of pushing towards 250 but Williamson derailed those ambitions with wickets in consecutive overs, although HotSpot supported McLaren's frustration at his dismissal. That was nothing compared to the frustration he felt a few hours later.