Glenn Maxwell returned to form with a battling half-century and Australia's bowlers nearly pulled off a miracle, but the Justin Langer era began in defeat as England claimed a tight three-wicket victory in the opening ODI at The Oval.
Australia's 214 was never likely to be enough against an England side whose key strength is depth in batting, and so it proved as they chased down the target with six overs remaining unbowled.
Australia had been staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat at various points in this match: when they slipped to 5-90 as the batters struggled against spin; when they managed to post an innings total of just 214; when Joe Root and Eoin Morgan put on 153 for the fourth wicket.
But each time Australia fought back. Firstly, Maxwell answered the call to score 62 – his first ODI half-century for 18 months, and the first since Steve Smith publicly implored him to "train smarter".
Then Billy Stanlake gave the Australians the perfect start to their bowling innings, ripping through Jason Roy's defence with the second delivery.
Michael Neser, on debut, followed it up in his second over to trap Alex Hales in front for his maiden international wicket, and Kane Richardson's variations then coaxed Jonny Bairstow to smash a pull hard and flat straight to Travis Head leaving the home side 3-38.
But Morgan and Root each posted half-centuries and England seemed set to cruise towards the victory target.
It was the bag of tricks that AJ Tye brings to the crease that opened England up. He came around the wicket to Morgan and had him edging a cut shot to Tim Paine to exit on 69.
Then Tye bowled a 112kph slower ball that had Jos Buttler beaten as he chipped it to Richardson at mid-on.
Suddenly, Stanlake had Root edging behind and England had lost 3-10.
Moeen skied a catch to substitute fielder D'Arcy Short for Neser to claim his second with England 18 from victory.
But David Willey steadied the ship with an unbeaten 35, including a towering straight six off Neser that finished the game.
Maxwell's 62 had helped steer Australia to 214 as they were bowled out with three overs unused, having won the toss and opted to bat first.
Worryingly, they lost five top-order wickets to the spin of Moeen and Adil Rashid in the process.
Maxwell's knock gave the Aussies some reason for cheer after he responded from a lean run in the warm-up matches with four boundaries and two sixes in a 64-ball knock.
Ashton Agar added 40 batting at No.7 but the next best was Shaun Marsh's 24 at No.3, and he was one of the five in the top seven to fall to spin.
Moeen's 3-43 in a 10-over spell had reduced the Aussies to 5-90 before Maxwell and Agar put on 84 from the sixth wicket. Fourteen of those runs came in the final over of his spell when Maxwell was at his peak.
Rashid picked up the dangerous Marcus Stoinis for 22, and later added Agar, to finish with 2-36.
In the most entertaining period of the Australian innings, Maxwell smashed Moeen for two boundaries, saw out a dot ball, then lifted the off-spinner over long-off for six. Next over he put Root's part-time spin back over his head for six more.
Sadly for the Australians, the onslaught did not last. Maxwell had glided to his first ODI fifty in some 18 months (having only played 10 knocks in that time), and was well-placed to launch Australia to a defendable target.
But he fell with 13 overs to go, a whip off his pads elevated Liam Plunkett's delivery just enough for Jonny Bairstow to take a sharp catch running to his right on the boundary.
Maxwell had fallen cheaply in Australia's two warm-up matches to soft dismissals. But Langer and Paine had publicly backed him, called him their match-winner and said a big knock was just around the corner.
The Victorian proved them right, in part, although he left Australia wanting more. He had started scratchy, seemingly trying to biff everything to the fence or beyond, but soon found his rhythm.
He drove, swept and pulled with ferocity, his shots whizzing along the ground at electric pace. A sweep rocketed along so fast Bairstow, on the deep square boundary, had no chance despite being just a few meters away from the ball.
The early going exposed Australia's old weakness against spin. In England the culprit has been swing and seam movement but the variations from Moeen and Rashid did the damage here.
The problem is a long-standing one on the subcontinent, and they were early warning signs the malaise had spread to English conditions. The Australians lost 4-13 in 31 balls in their opening warm-up match against Sussex, with wickets falling to part-time spinners.
Moeen and Rashid, however, are world class, and the Australian batting struggled and Paine may have second-guessed his decision to bat first after calling correctly at his first coin toss as ODI captain.
There was an early set-back for the Aussies as Head chased a ball that pitched wide and was swinging wider from Willey, edging through to Bairstow at first slip.
Marsh came in at first-drop, possibly to keep the left-right combination going, and he and Finch put on 40 in five overs against the seamers.
England called on Moeen inside the Power Play, bringing him on for the ninth over. The gamble paid off immediately. Aaron Finch, the form batsman on the tour with two half-centuries in the warm-up matches, blocked out the first ball but tried to smash the second. He succeeded only in slicing the shot for Mark Wood at short-third man to take the catch.
Moeen struck again in his next over. Bowling around the wicket, he pitched on the left-handed Marsh's off-stump and got the ball to straighten. Marsh, who had crashed some sublime driven fours, played inside the line, missed it completely and had his off-stump knocked back.
The Aussies sent in Paine ahead of Maxwell with three down in only the 11th over. And Paine looked as comfortable as any batter for a time against the twin spin attack, until he attempted a reverse sweep and hit it directly to Wood for a second simple catch at short-third man.
Stoinis was watchful for 27 balls before he biffed a straight six into the grandstand off Moeen. But next over an attempted cut-shot feathered an edge off Rashid for keeper Jos Buttler to snare.
Neser has a List A century to his name for the Queensland Bulls but could only manage six before he became Plunkett's second.
Tye, who brought special London-themed socks to The Oval for the occasion, was struck on the grill by Plunkett, then deposited the next one 20 rows back over long-on. The entertaining battle was short lived, as Plunkett claimed the final wicket, Australia bowled out with three overs remaining.
Qantas tours of England and Zimbabwe
ODI squad: Tim Paine (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Travis Head, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye
England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (injured), David Willey, Chris Woakes (injured), Mark Wood
T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, D’Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Andrew Tye, Jack Wildermuth
Qantas Tour of England
June 13: First ODI, The Oval (D/N)
June 16: Second ODI, Cardiff
June 19: Third ODI, Trent Bridge (D/N)
June 21: Fourth ODI, Durham (D/N)
June 24: Fifth ODI, Old Trafford
June 27: Only T20, Edgbaston (D/N)
Qantas T20I tri-series Tour of Zimbabwe
July 1: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 2: Pakistan vs Australia
July 3: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 4: Zimbabwe vs Pakistan
July 5: Pakistan vs Australia
July 6: Australia vs Zimbabwe
July 8: Final