Ben Stokes made a scintillating maiden Twenty20 century on his return from injury as Rising Pune Supergiant beat Gujarat Lions by five wickets to move a step closer to securing an Indian Premier League play-off place.
Stokes sat out two matches after damaging his shoulder, but the England all-rounder allayed concerns over his fitness by smashing a magnificent unbeaten 103 from only 63 balls at MCA Stadium on Monday.
In-form spinner Imran Tahir (3-27) was the pick of the bowlers yet again and there were also three wickets for Jaydev Unadkat as Pune restricted the Lions to 161 all out, before Stokes rescued the home side from 42-4.
Pradeep Sangwan got rid of Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith in the first over, but Suresh Raina's side were unable to remove the brutal Stokes, who put on 76 with MS Dhoni and finished off the job with Dan Christian despite struggling with cramp.
Brendan McCullum (45 from 27 balls) and Ishan Kishan (31 off 24) got the Lions off to a flyer as they tried to banish the memories of a super-over defeat to Mumbai Indians, putting on 55 for the first wicket in six overs.
Not surprisingly it was South Africa spinner Tahir who made the breakthrough, getting Kishan caught at short third man before deceiving Aaron Finch, who was caught and bowled after Raina had been run out.
Tahir was on a hat-trick when he cleaned up Dwayne Smith first ball and conceded only 27 runs from his four overs, while Unadkat struck three times later in the innings as the wickets tumbled far too frequently for the Lions.
Dinesh Karthik added a brisk 29 and Gujarat's total looked far better when Sangwan trapped Rahane leg before and also bounced out the prolific Smith two balls later to put Pune in a mess on 8-2.
Manoj Tiwary also failed and Pune were deeper in the mire when Rahul Tripathi was run out following a mix-up with Stokes, who then took the innings by the scruff of the neck with a mature knock.
The powerful left-hander shifted through the gears, launching Sangwan over long-on for six and hitting Ravindra Jadeja, the world's top-ranked Test bowler, for back-to-back sixes.
England's Test vice-captain raced to his second IPL half-century and thrived on the responsibility under pressure, dishing out some brutal treatment with support from the composed Dhoni.
Dhoni struggled to get going and fell for 26 from 33 balls, but Stokes took the role as finisher on this occasion, showing why Pune made him the most expensive overseas player in IPL history despite struggling with cramp.
Stokes hit six maximums in a breathtaking knock, leaving Christian to strike the winning six with a ball to spare.