Johannesburg - The SA men's hockey team went down 4-3 to Austria at Queensmead in Durban on Tuesday night after trailing 3-1 at half-time in a pulsating second Test of the four-match series.
The heart-stopping win puts the Europeans 1-0 up in the series after Monday's encounter was drawn 1-1.
SA were first to score through a Matt Guise-Brown penalty corner drag-flick bullet in the 12th minute but the Europeans hit back with a three-goal blitz inside 10 minutes and the men in green and gold faced an uphill battle going into the last two of the four 15-minute chukkas.
Michael Koerper's penalty stroke in the 14th minute and field goals from Alezander Bele and captain Ben Stanzl in the 19th and 23rd minutes put the Austrians, at 3-1 up, in a great position to win the match.
Both sides created enough opportunities and there were encouraging debuts in this experimental SA team for midfielder Chad Cairncross and strikers Shannon Boucher and Richard Pautz.
Despite both side's hard work, the third chukka of 15 minutes went scoreless, but spurred on by an enthusiastic home crowd the fourth and final stanza saw SA pull a goal back with 10 minutes left in the match (50th minute) when a Guise-Brown pass found striker Keenan Horne, who shook off several determined tackles before being impeded by a desperate Austrian defensive lunge.
Guise-Brown stepped up and rifled his second PC into the backboard (3-2) and the outcome was again in the balance. Striving hard for the 3-3 equaliser, SA threw everything at the embattled Austrians and tempers flared as the clock wound down.
SA continued exploiting the left flank to advantage and with six minutes left (54th) the industrious Horne latched onto the ball and cracked a pass across the face of goal for Pautz to make it 3-3 in spectacular fashion.
But just two minutes later (56th) the Austrians were back in front when Julius Heimanns scored a soft goal (4-3). The fired-up South Africans again came back hard but this time replacement keeper Ben Melic got in the way of a Guise-Brown PC scorcher.
With just seconds left SA came agonisingly close to drawing level yet again but it was not to be.