Australia folded at the death as Mark Boucher clubbed an unbeaten 36 to lead South Africa to victory by four wickets with four balls to spare in the first Standard Bank Pro20 international.
Boucher scored 36 not out off 22 balls and shared a stand of 27 off 17 balls with skipper Johan Botha (7*) to take South Africa to a target of 167 that seemed a distant dream with five overs left in their innings.
Australia had stemmed the flow of runs with such success (and there were some poor strokes as well), that South Africa could only reach 105 for five after 15 overs, but Albie Morkel was on fire in the next two overs, smashing 37 runs with four fours and two sixes.
South Africa were suddenly on 141 for five and Ricky Ponting was forced to bring his ace bowler, Mitchell Johnson, back on to bowl the 18th over. It was a wise move as a slower ball outfoxed Morkel and he skied a catch, leaving the Bullring to roars of approval from a capacity crowd.
Mickey Arthur always sings Boucher's praises as a finisher and, with 26 runs needed from 17 balls, the wicketkeeper fully justified his coach's faith in him.
Helped by some terrible bowling from Shane Harwood and Brett Geeves in the last two overs, Boucher pummelled five fours in all as Australia folded in awful fashion.
South Africa had left themselves an awful amount of work to do as none of the top-order batsmen could put together a meaningful partnership.
Herschelle Gibbs played some strokes reminiscent of his incredible 175 in the 438 game at the Wanderers three years ago, but drove Geeves' first delivery straight to extra cover to be out for 19 off 12 balls.
The Tasmanian then bowled AB de Villiers for seven with the first ball of his second over and Hashim Amla was then bowled for 26 by off-spinner David Hussey.
JP Duminy seemed to be retrieving the situation as he breezed to a run-a-ball 21 but lost his cool after successive boundaries off James Hopes and was bowled.
Vaughn van Jaarsveld continued to send the wrong messages to the selectors as he was bowled by Hussey for three, before Morkel and Boucher lifted South Africa from the grave.
Earlier, Hussey's terrific onslaught handed Australia a competitive 166 for seven after they were sent into bat, South Africa having finally won a toss.
The visitors were set for something far less as they lost three wickets in the 10th over to slump to 71 for five, but Hussey, a late bloomer like his brother Michael and still something of an unknown internationally, then showed his hand as he hammered 88 not out off just 44 balls, with five fours and six sixes.
He got stuck into Dale Steyn's last two overs of the innings as South Africa's premier fast bowler leaked 32 runs in the 18th and 20th overs.
South Africa were on top in the first half of the innings as all the bowlers were on target, especially Wayne Parnell, on whose young shoulders rested the responsibility of taking the new ball with Steyn.
Parnell is wise beyond his 19 years and he bowled superbly to take two for 29 in his four overs. He beat Michael Clarke's carefree drive with the fifth ball of his first over and then delivered the perfect yorker to bowl the dangerous Johnson for 10 with the last delivery of the penultimate over. No wonder Mickey Arthur sings his praises.
Morkel had Ricky Ponting caught for just a single and spinners Botha and Robin Peterson then pressed home South Africa's advantage.
David Warner smacked four fours and a six in his 38 off 29 balls but was unable to press on, powering a straight drive back at Peterson, who took a good low catch.
South Africa then burst through the middle-order to shift the momentum completely their way.
Michael Hussey was too slow to beat Botha's rocket-throw, direct hit from short fine leg to be run out first ball and Brad Haddin then completed a disastrous over for the visitors by sending a big lofted drive straight to Morkel at long-off.
David Hussey was on 26 at the time but there was no stopping him as he bombarded the bowlers with powerful drives and pulls.
Hussey and Cameron White (16) added 45 for the sixth wicket before White, who obviously didn't listen when his schoolboy coach told him not to be too greedy, followed a slog-sweep for six off Peterson with another one that was caught by Duminy at cow corner.
Hussey remained to the end, however, to steer Australia to a respectable score.
The bowling honours may have gone to Parnell, but Botha (4-0-25-0) and Peterson, who took three for 30, also did sterling work to keep Australia under pressure.
Australia, who have rested middle-order batsmen Marcus North and Callum Ferguson, as well as their most successful limited-overs bowler, Nathan Bracken, batted first in perfect conditions and a capacity crowd at the Wanderers was expecting to see the runs flowing.
Roelof van der Merwe and Yusuf Abdullah will have to wait for their first tastes of international action and will be carrying the drinks for South Africa along with Justin Ontong and Johann Louw.