England have preserved their No.1 Test status after ending a disappointing winter on a high with a series-levelling eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo.
Graeme Swann proved England's saviour once again, recording second-innings figures of 6-106 to help dismiss Sri Lanka for 278 on the final morning, leaving England a victory target of just 94.
The tourists lost their captain Andrew Strauss in the very first over of the chase when he was bowled by Tillakaratne Dilshan for a six-ball duck, while Jonathan Trott made just five before he was trapped lbw by Rangana Herath.
But Alastair Cook steadied the ship with a positive, unbeaten 49, while man-of-the-match Kevin Pietersen fittingly hit the winning runs with a six off Dilshan to end on 42 not out.
The win ends a four-match losing streak in Test cricket for Strauss' men, who will now prepare for home series against West Indies and world No.2 ranked South Africa.
Resuming the final day on 218-6, holding a narrow 33-run lead, Sri Lanka duo Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews held England up for 40 minutes, but not before Cook had dropped two gilt-edge chances at short-leg off Swann's bowling.
England should have been celebrating a breakthrough just four deliveries into the day when Swann turned one in sharply to Mathews from outside stump and the batsman could only fend to Cook at short-leg, but the fielder could not hold on to a low chance.
Cook handed Mathews a second life on 12 when he put down another bat-pad catch in the same position, this one coming quicker to his right, however the ball did not stick in his grasp.
England's frustrations mounted when James Anderson thought he had secured the prize scalp of Jayawardene after umpire Asad Rauf raised the finger following a sustained lbw appeal.
But the Sri Lanka captain called for a review and third umpire Rod Tucker found enough evidence of an inside edge to over-rule Rauf.
Swann finally claimed his 13th Test match five-for at the third time of asking, Jayawardene gloving a near undroppable chance to the grateful Cook to go for 64.
That dismissal brought an end to a superb series with the bat for the Sri Lanka captain, who amassed 354 runs at an average of 88.5.
His namesake Prasanna Jayawardene lasted just six balls before being bowled around his legs on the sweep against Swann.
That scalp was Swann's 10th success of the match - the second time he has achieved the feat following his return of 10-217 against Bangladesh in March 2010.
Mathews looked ready to attack, thrashing Tim Bresnan for four over mid-on, but lost another partner when Herath nicked Samit Patel to Anderson at slip.
Last man Suranga Lakmal survived a review after Patel thought he had him caught by Matt Prior without scoring, and Mathews took advantage with two more boundaries off the slow left-armer.
A reverse sweep to the third-man ropes was next as Mathews took the lead towards 100, however Steven Finn returned to end his entertaining 46-run cameo.
Lunch was taken with England requiring 94 runs to level the series, but no sooner than had play resumed, nerves began to fray in the visiting changing room.
Sri Lanka opened with spin in the form of Dilshan and he provided the hosts with a dream start when he spun one past Strauss' bat and crashed the ball into off stump.
That dismissal brought Trott to the middle with no runs added, however Cook quickly signalled his intent with two boundaries in the space of three Dilshan deliveries.
After wasting one lbw review on Trott, Jayawardene and Herath made amends with the score on 31 when, after a lengthy conference, they reviewed an original not out call on the same batsman which replays confirmed would have gone on to hit the stumps.
But any Sri Lankan hopes of an England collapse were quickly dispelled when Pietersen, fresh from his sublime 151 in the first-innings, picked up where he left off with a flurry of runs either side of the wicket.
Cook continued to cut and drive with purpose but was denied yet another Test half-century when Pietersen finished the match in style by hitting Dilshan for two boundaries and a six in the 20th and final over.