Yusuf Pathan blazed a half-century but India still had to call on their tailenders to clinch victory over South Africa by two wickets in the third one-day international at Newlands on Tuesday.

India, chasing a modest 221 for victory, were well set after Pathan thumped six fours and three sixes in his 59. But when he was brilliantly caught at third man by Morne Morkel, India still needed 39 runs with three wickets in hand.

It fell to Harbhajan Singh, who scored a watchful but defiant 23 not out, to see them home, with valuable support from Zaheer Khan (14) and Ashish Nehra (6 not out).

India now lead the five-match series 2-1 following their dramatic one-run victory in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Pathan lifted India from 93 for five and turned the tide against the home team after Morkel had induced an early collapse. He shared a 75-run stand with Suresh Raina (37) and was particularly severe on the off-spin of Johan Botha, hitting him for three sixes in the 30th over.

JP Duminy and debutant Faf du Plessis recorded half-centuries for South Africa before India hit back to bowl them out for 220.

Duminy scored 52 and Du Plessis 60 as they lifted the hosts with a 110-run stand for the fifth wicket. South Africa collapsed once the pair were parted, slumping from 200 for four to add just another 20 runs.

Their partnership was a relatively dull affair with Duminy and Du Plessis, both natural strokemakers, batting with restraint.

Zaheer, who produced a fine spell with the new ball, finished with three for 43, in-form Munaf Patel claimed two for 42 and Harbhajan took two for 23.