The batsmen set the game up for Sri Lanka by putting on a sizeable score, with the bowlers then doing the business as well as they could have to hand South Africa a disappointing loss in their World T20 encounter in Chittagong.
Choosing to bat first after winning the toss on a decent pitch, which wasn't exactly turning square, Kusal Perera and Angelo Mathews helped Sri Lanka to 165 for seven from their 20 overs.
In reply, South Africa always looked a few runs behind, and that proved to be the case as the Proteas fell short by five runs, finishing on 160 for eight.
South Africa got off to a nice start with Quinton De Kock looking quite good at the crease, playing a few crisper than a cracker strokes.
The Proteas quickly raced to 32 in the fifth over, before Lasith nobody-bowls-a-better-yorker-than-me Malinga (4-0-29-1) struck a big blow for Sri Lanka, smashing the LED stumps after De Kock (28, 18b, 4x4, 1x6) could do nothing about the searing trademark full delivery.
Hashim Amla, at the other end, was looking like, well, Hashim Amla, with JP Duminy, in good form and one of the best players the last time the two sides met in a T20 series, given the task of seeing South Africa through.
Amla (23, 26b, 2x4) scored a couple of nice-looking fours, and looked like he could anchor the innings, but fell to Sachitra Senanayake while attempting a shot over the offside.
Senanayake (4-0-22-2) would pick up the crucial wicket of Duminy too, but before that the left-hander and AB De Villiers did their best to take South Africa close, putting on 28 in 19 deliveries.
However, once De Villiers nicked one to Kumar Sangakkara off Angelo Mathews, and Duminy holed out at deep midwicket while looking for a six off Senanayake, SA were up against it, needing 46 from the final four overs.
With David I-can-strike-a-six-at-will Miller and Albie Morkel (12 in 4) at the crease, though, the chase was still possible. Morkel, under scrutiny after being selected into the side, cut the odds a little with two consecutive sixes off Ajantha Mendis, but was walking back soon after while attempting a hat-trick of maximums.
Thanks to that mini-assault from Morkel, the target was brought down to a makeable 29 from 18 balls, with South Africa's hopes pinned on Miller. Sri Lanka, obviously, looked towards their main man Malinga, who was to bowl the 18th and 20th overs.
The 18th from the slinger went for 10 runs, meaning South Africa needed 19 from the last two to open their World T20 campaign with a victory.
Nuwan Kulasekara put his hand up brilliantly in the penultimate over, giving away just four runs, while also sending Farhaan Behardien packing, which meant all Malinga had to do was keep the final over to 13 runs and below, with South Africa needing 15 in the final six deliveries for a victory.
Two run outs - of Dale Steyn and Miller - pretty much ended Proteas' hopes of an improbably victory as Sri Lanka held their nerve brilliantly to pick up an impressive win.
It was all about Kusal Perera in the first 13 overs of the innings for Sri Lanka, before ODI and Test skipper Mathews took over to take his team well past the 160-run mark.
There were doubts about Dale Steyn's fitness ahead of the game, and one wondered whether the hamstring was still troubling the incomparable pacer as Kusal Perera lent into the opening four deliveries, smashing a couple of fours and a six to set the tone.
However, angering Steyn (4-0-37-2) is more dangerous angering the Incredible Hulk, and the South African express bowler came back brilliantly in the last delivery of the first over, castling Tillakaratne Dilshan for a first-ball duck, after the right-hander was beaten for pace and missed the ball while trying to play a pathetic cross-batted slog.
Mahela he-should-be-opening-the-batting Jayawardene (9, 9b, 1x4) came in and did not trouble the scorers too much, falling prey to Morne Morkel (4-0-31-2) while trying to lift the ball past Steyn at mid-on, a delivery after he hit the fast bowler through the offside for a boundary.
That put Sri Lanka on a perturbing 42 for two in the fifth over, but Perera kept the attack alive continuing to look like the cricketing reincarnation of the great Sanath Jayasuriya.
At the other end, Kumar Sangakkara, who never looked threatening enough, went after an 18-ball 14, top-edging one to short third man while trying to hoick one to the leg side of the impressive Imran Tahir (4-0-26-3).
Tahir would then dismiss the danger man Perera (61, 40b, 6x4, 3x6) with another attempted attacking shot while coming down the wicket only ending up in the safe hands of De Villiers at mid-on.
However, with finisher extraordinaire Mathews at the crease, Sri Lanka always looked good for a winnable score, and that proved to be the case as the all-rounder struck an effective 43 (32b, 3x4, 1x6).
Sri Lanka, despite losing three wickets in the final five overs, including skipper Dinesh Chandimal, who continues to flatter to deceive making one wonder why on earth he is the T20 captain, scored 48 runs to take them to the competitive total, a total which eventually proved to be more than enough.