Mahendra Singh Dhoni slammed a swashbuckling unbeaten 72 as India showed great character and self-belief to script a sensational five-wicket victory over Pakistan in the third One-Day International and take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series in Laore on Monday.
Chasing a stiff target of 289, Sachin Tendulkar laid the platform with a classy 95 before Dhoni took centrestage with his audacious stroke-play to take India home with 14 balls to spare under lights at the Gaddafi stadium.
Dhoni's 46-ball knock and his 102-run association for the sixth wicket with Yuvraj Singh (79 not out) turned the tide for India, who were in a spot of bother at 190 for five at one stage and needed more than seven runs an over.
The Indian dressing room erupted in joy as Dhoni hooked Abdul Razzak to the boundary to bring up the winning runs, and in the process prove that the team has the batting depth to chase huge totals.
The visitors finished on 292 for five in 47.4 overs to overhaul Pakistan's total, which was built on a sparkling 120-ball 108 by Shoaib Malik.
Dhoni, declared man of the match, slammed 13 fours in his blitzkrieg that took the wind out of Pakistan's sails and brought much cheer to the thousands of Indian supporters who crossed the border to catch the action.
The successful run-chase by the visitors before a vociferous crowd, which included Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, stunned the home supporters into silence after the hosts had reduced India to 12 for 2.
The Gaddafi stadium again proved lucky for India as they had clinched the one-day series on their last tour of Pakistan in 2004 at the venue. It was India's fourth triumph in the last nine ODIs against Pakistan.
The Indians were helped by a shoddy display in the field and wayward bowling in the death overs.
Dhoni's cracker of an innings, his fourth ODI fifty in 33 matches, settled the issue well ahead of time when Pakistan were sniffing a victory after Tendulkar's departure with India needing 100 runs in the last 16 overs.
The wicketkeeper, who burst into limelight after his blistering knock of 148 in the Vishakapatnam one-day last year against Pakistan, simply took the match away from Pakistan's grasp in the last ten overs after coming in at the fall of Mohammed Kaif's wicket. India were 190 for five in the 35th over.
Before his advent to the crease, Tendulkar and Yuvraj were involved in a stand of 105 runs in 94 balls before Tendulkar and Kaif fell in the space of only five balls to throw the match wide open.
The unbroken stand between Dhoni and Yuvraj, who faced 87 balls and hit ten fours, was worth 102 runs and came off just 72 balls to simply leave the home team fans dazed.
Shoaib Malik thrived on a dropped chance to slam his fifth one-day century, while all-rounder Abdul Razzaq chipped in with a quick unbeaten 64.
Malik, dropped on 12 in the 10th over, cracked a superb 108, studded with 11 fours and a six in 120 balls, and rallied the home team from 158 for six with a rollicking 86-run seventh wicket stand with Razzaq.
Razzaq slammed seven fours and two sixes, both off Irfan Pathan in the 49th over as Pakistan set the visitors a stiff asking rate to win.
Put in to bat, Pakistan were off to a shaky start, losing their first wicket without a run on the board before being reduced to a precarious 82 for four.
The Indian bowlers rose to the occasion splendidly for the second match running and were well on course to restrict the strong Pakistan batting line-up to a manageable total but were let down by slip-shod catching.
The bowlers, mauled by Pakistan in the three-Test series and in the first ODI at Peshawar, took in their stride lapses in the field by striking at regular intervals to keep the home team on their toes before Malik and Razzaq rescued the home side.
Three catches were grassed in the slip cordon by the Indians in the first 12 overs, all off rookie right-arm pacer S Sreesanth, who finally ended with 0 for 74 in 10 overs.
The biggest beneficiary of India's butter-fingered display was Malik, who went on to score his second limited-overs international hundred against India before being out in the 46th over while giving charge to Irfan Pathan.
The determined effort of Malik, who had come into the tie with scores of 90 and 95 in the first two ODIs, was the highlight of Pakistan's innings.
India drew blood off the second ball itself, as they had done in the previous game at Rawalpindi last Saturday.
Opener Salman Butt (0) edged to third slip fielder Gautam Gambhir, drafted into the side in place of an injured Virender Sehwag, who is returning home along with Harbhajan Singh.
Pakistan should have been two down in the next over but Shahid Afridi, who was sent up to open the innings, was let off by Mohammed Kaif at third slip after getting both hands to the ball.
Worse was to follow for India when Kamran Akmal's straight-forward edge to first slip was dropped by captain Rahul Dravid, but these two lapses did not prove as costly to the Indians as the one that let off Malik, when on 12 in a score of 55 for 2 in the 5th over of Sreesanth.
Kaif made amends in the 7th over when Afridi tried an almighty heave and got a leading edge to be caught at short extra cover off Pathan for 19, the hosts being reduced to 39 for 2.
Malik batted sensibly after his lucky escape to put on 36 runs with Akmal before the latter was sent back by Rudra Pratap Singh soon after the bowler came on for Pathan, who got 2 for 22 in his impressive opening spell.
There was a half chance too that benefited Akmal when he fiercely cut R P Singh but a leaping Suresh Raina could not complete the catch at point despite a superb effort.
That escape resulted in a four and then Akmal slammed the UP left arm bowler for two other fours in the same over before the Indian extracted revenge by having the batsman caught at short extra cover when he tried a wristy flick. His 34 contained six fours.
Sreesanth was replaced by Ajit Agarkar who, after bowling six overs for 21 runs left the field after the 28th over.
India brought in super sub Zaheer Khan to replace the Mumbai right-armer but he proved a very expensive proposition in the end overs.
Pakistan lost Mohammed Yousuf too cheaply when the score read 82; he edged an attempted drive off R P Singh to keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Sachin Tendulkar then gave India a big breakthrough when he induced rival skipper Inzamam-ul Haq (16) to cut and snick to the keeper to reduce Pakistan to 128 for five in the 28th over.
But Malik batted positively even as he lost partners at regular intervals. His shot selection was superb and was involved in the most fruitful partnership of the innings with Razzaq, after the dismissal of vice-captain Younis Khan by R P for 16.
After completing his first 50 in 73 balls in five fours, Malik stepped up the tempo and carted the Indian bowling around to race to his century in 40 more balls. It also contained 11 fours and a six over long on off Sreesanth when the unlucky bowler came on for a costly two-over second spell.
The last ten overs of the innings yielded 89 runs.
Pathan ended up with three wickets for 49 runs, 13 of which came in his tenth over, while R P Singh claimed the same number of wickets for 51 runs.
Earlier, India made two changes in the team that played in Rawalpindi, bringing in Gambhir for Sehwag and replacing Zaheer, who was made super sub, with R P Singh. Pakistan left out Umar
Gul and brought in Yasir Arafat.