New Zealand imploded in the closing overs of the third and final Twenty20 cricket international, crumbling under an unlikely South African comeback to a three-run loss at Eden Park in Auckland.
Stung by an eight-wicket loss in Sunday's second Twenty20, the Black Caps looked to be cruising in chasing South Africa's modest 7-165. But they lost too many wickets in the closing overs, the runs drying up in the face of some astute bowling at the death from Marchant de Lange, Johan Botha and Morne Morkel.
Recalled big-hitter Jesse Ryder hadn't played since late last year after injuring his calf, but looked to have set New Zealand up for the win with a 42-ball 52 which included five fours and two sixes.
But the runs dried up horribly, with just 13 off the last four overs, and when the burly left-hander looped a catch to Morne Morkel off Botha with seven balls remaining, the pressure proved too much for New Zealand.
Disappointed Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum afterwards paid tribute to the focused South African bowling attack.
"South Africa put us under pressure and to their credit, they held their nerve. We just weren't good enough at the end there," he said.
Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill crafted an explosive opening partnership, scoring at more than 10 an over in piling on 65 for the first wicket.
Albie Morkel halted the run haemorrhage on the last ball of the sixth over, as Nicol sliced a top edge to Richard Levi at fine leg.
His 33 off 19 balls included five fours and a six, and topped off a superb all-round effort which saw him take two excellent catches, effect a crucial run-out and pick up two wickets for 20 runs off three overs.
Guptill followed six balls later, holing out to Hashim Amla at long off for 26 off the bowling of Botha.
That brought together Ryder and Brendon McCullum, and although Robin Peterson removed McCullum for 18 at the end of the 12th over, New Zealand looked in control until the runs petered out in the last four overs.
Earlier, New Zealand had bowled well to restrict the Proteas after a fourth-wicket 62-run partnership between captain AB de Villiers and JP Duminy threatened to take the game away from them.
Nicol took two wickets in three balls in the 14th over, then Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell kept the clamps on with clever variation in line, length and pace in the closing overs.Southee finished with figures of 2-22 off his four overs, while Bracewell chipped in with 1-28.