Only Alastair Cook and Chris Woakes did themselves any justice as England were bowled out for 182 in the final NatWest Series match against South Africa at Trent Bridge.
Success would not only finish a sequence of 13 wins from 14 completed one-day internationals this year for Cook's world number one team, but would also wrap up an eighth successive home series victory.
England will have to bowl especially well, though, to defend a significantly below-par total in which a succession of batsmen got out to regrettable shots on a perfectly viable ODI pitch.
The hosts lost their first two wickets for the addition of one run, in the fourth and fifth overs, after choosing to bat first on a glorious afternoon for this day-night fixture. They had made an encouraging start until Ian Bell missed a delivery that came on with the arm from Robin Peterson (three wickets for 37 runs) and was lbw pushing forward, Simon Taufel's decision confirmed after the batsman invoked DRS.
Ravi Bopara, pushed up to number three in the absence of the injured Jonathan Trott, is enduring a nightmare run of form. His troubles continued when Dale Steyn pitched a delivery in the ideal place, and found just enough movement for Bopara to be caught behind for single figures for the third successive time in this series.
This was also his second duck in those three innings, and put added pressure on new batsman Jonny Bairstow - called up for his first one-day international cap since last October.
The young Yorkshireman fared well in a 55-run stand with Cook (51), until he became the first of three consecutive batsmen to fall to catches chipped unerringly straight into fielders' hands. Bairstow picked out deep square-leg off Morne Morkel; Eoin Morgan hit his second delivery, from JP Duminy, to mid-on - where Hashim Amla had just been brought up five yards, to save the single.
Then Cook, who had done so much of the hard work on his way to his first half-century in his last 10 Test and ODI innings, lost his famed concentration against Faf du Plessis' part-time leg-spin and pushed a low full-toss back for a routine return catch. It was an unsatisfactory end to his 72-ball stay, and a similar summary applied when Craig Kieswetter mistimed an attempted big hit off Morkel and skied a catch to Amla again at mid-off.
After the wicketkeeper-batsman had gone in the powerplay, following back Nottinghamshire's own Samit Patel, who gloved a slower-ball bouncer from Steyn behind - England began what should have been the last 10 overs on an unpromising 165 for seven.
The tail then folded to Peterson, who took two wickets in two balls - and not even Woakes' career-best 33 not out could salvage much worthwhile before Jade Dernbach was last out after just 45.2 overs.