Alex Hales had just reached his fourth half-century of the series and England seemed to be progressing nicely at 87 for 1 in the 18th over. But, such was the sense that this pitch required a total in excess of 350 and so keen was Hales to push on, that he attempted a slog-sweep off Imran Tahir despite a man on the midwicket fence and it being the long boundary. The ball flew directly to the fielder and precipitated a collapse that saw England lose five wickets for 21 runs in seven overs. Despite Joe Root's excellence, England were never able to fully recover
Tahir had actually not had reason to celebrate much in the series before this match, in which he more than doubled his wicket tally, but the final scalp brought out the Tahir of old. Ben Stokes did not read the googly and got forward to defend but edged. Hashim Amla, who is not known as the most agile in the field, was at slip and reached almost behind himself to take the catch one-handed, to his right. Tahir was so delighted that he took off towards the Centenary Stand and only stopped when he realised the only people he had to celebrate with were the crowd. Tahir eventually made his way back to his team-mates where Kyle Abbott was the first to congratulate him.
Root fully deserved his century. In helping England rebuild, yet still scoring relatively freely, he almost single-handedly kept them in the game. But, on 95, he was adjudged to have been trapped leg before by Tahir. He reviewed immediately, with replays showing a thick inside edge on to his pad that allowed him the chance to go on and achieve the eighth ODI century of his career. Now only Kevin Pietersen (with nine) and Marcus Trescothick (with 12) of England players have scored more
Stuart Broad, back for his first limited-overs appearance since the World Cup, was about to repeat the success he had over AB de Villiers in the Test series with the first ball he bowled to him in the ODIs but Jason Roy let him down. Broad bowled it full and lured de Villiers into a drive, which he played uppishly to send the ball towards backward point. Roy had to dive to his right but he did so perfectly and went for the catch with both hands. He had the ball in his grasp but it bounced out as he tumbled and de Villiers, who was on 9 at the time, survived. He responded by taking back-to-back boundaries off Broad to show him he would pay.
South Africa made several superb stops and took a few good grabs and it seemed their fielding was going to give them the edge after England put down two catches but then Chris Woakes struck. JP Duminy called for a single after dabbing a ball off his ribs to shortish mid-wicket. Woakes had to go to his left in his follow through, swoop on the ball and underarm it on to the stumps at the striker's end and he managed all of that in one movement. De Villiers was a well short and knew it, walking off the field even as the replays went to the third umpire.
England failed to hold on to several chances but Reece Topley showed how it should be done when he took a low, one-handed catch in his follow through to end Farhaan Behardien's innings. Behardien was the only recognised batsman left and had taken it on himself to get South Africa close. He tried to chip a full Topley delivery straight down the ground but the bowler stuck out his arm, squatted a touch and claimed the catch that looked to have made England favourites.
Chris Morris struck three fours and four sixes but none of them were as important as the four that came off Tahir's bat to end the match. With scores tied, the only team with something to lose was South Africa, who needed to win to keep the series alive. Morris took them to the brink but was bowled by a googly from Adil Rashid to leave Tahir with one run to score. Tahir received a legbreak, a delivery he would have recognised immediately and mowed it through the covers for four to ensure the series would go to a decider. Tahir had already enjoyed himself with ball in hand but that shot brought out his biggest celebration - bat swivelling, pitch dancing and an almighty roar.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo; Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent