Adelaide - Australia skipper Aaron Finch praised his "outstanding" bowlers on Friday after they snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating South Africa, boosting their battered confidence while keeping the one-day series alive.
Set 232 to win, the Proteas could only manage 224-9 in their 50 overs, leaving the series tied at 1-1 with the decider in Hobart on Sunday.
The hosts, who were thrashed by six wickets with more than 20 overs to spare in the opening match, dug deep with their bowlers getting them over the line.
Marcus Stoinis was the pick with 3-35 off his 10 overs, including the crucial scalp of David Miller who hit a stubborn 51.
"The way we defended was outstanding, The bowlers were relentless," said Finch.
"I'm not sure if it's relief, but justification for some hard work.
"We held our chances and it went our way. We knew we had to bowl them out, or go close to it."
Adelaide has been a happy hunting ground in the past for Australia.
In fact, their last one-day win came at the oval nine months ago against England, before the reigning world champions were knocked for six by the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March and disarray within Cricket Australia.
Their form slump had been characterised by batting collapses and they again struggled to compile a big total with some tight South African bowling putting them back in the pavilion for 231.
Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said "good teams should close that (score) down".
"I felt we let ourselves down with the bat, very disappointed," he added. "I don't believe that score was worth winning, we let ourselves down."
With Mitchell Starc returning to new-ball duties after a short-lived experiment with Nathan Coulter-Nile in Perth backfired, the Australian attack did its job.
Starc got a reward in his third over, with Adam Zampa getting under a catch in the deep to end Quinton de Kock's night.
Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks looked dangerous as they pushed the score to 46, but they needlessly attempted a third run from a clip off the pads and Markham was run out.
Six balls later and Hendricks was also in the clubhouse, getting an outside edge off Josh Hazlewood to give Australia hope.
And when Heinrich Klassen fell to Stoinis to leave the Proteas on 68-4 the crowd finally came alive, sensing the miserable run could be over.
Du Plessis and Miller built a 74-run partnership before Pat Cummins got a breakthrough with the South African skipper dragging the ball onto his stumps on 47.
Miller dug in as partners fell to grind out a gutsy 51 before he was given out lbw on a review decision and the South African tail failed to wag.
Finch had stressed beforehand the need to go back to basics and build partnerships, and he and Travis Head tried to set the tone after being sent into bat.
But Head's aggressiveness cost him and he was trapped lbw for eight.
That brought Shaun Marsh to the crease and he quickly got into his groove, working up a 50 partnership with Finch before getting a thick edge off Kagiso Rabada on 22 with de Kock taking the catch.
Finch built a composed 41 before he was deceived by a Dwaine Pretorius delivery.
The explosive Chris Lynn was in Twenty20 mode when he smacked 18 off the first four balls of a Rabada over before he pushed his luck too far on the fifth, mistiming a hook and was caught.
With wickets falling, Alex Carey worked hard to make 47 before becoming Rabada's third victim.