England were on the brink of another series defeat to Australia this winter after losing the first Twenty20 international by 13 runs in Hobart.
An under-strength Australia blasted 213 for four on the back of a century opening stand between Cameron White (75) and Aaron Finch (52) to set England a record Twenty20 chase.
England crashed to 51 for four in pursuit and despite Ravi Bopara's 65 from 27 balls the tourists fell short at 200 for nine.
Bopara made the margin of defeat smaller as he hit three of his seven sixes in the last over from Josh Hazlewood, which cost 24 runs.
Nathan Coulter-Nile took career-best figures of four for 30.
England need to win their next game in Melbourne on Friday to keep the series alive and avoid leaving Australia with nothing to show for three months of touring.
Australia were without most of their preferred line-up after their Test players flew to South Africa on Wednesday.
David Warner, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson were therefore missing, as well as James Faulkner after he had knee surgery on Tuesday.
England brought in five fresh faces, including their top-order trio of Michael Lumb, Alex Hales and Luke Wright straight from playing in the Big Bash League for the past month.
Any hope that would stand them in good stead quickly evaporated as they all fell cheaply after being set a chase, ballooned by a short boundary on the eastern side.
Australia had taken full toll of that, hitting 11 sixes and 15 fours in their innings, but England were unable to match that in the first half of their reply as they lost wickets too readily.
Lumb fell in the second over when he drove Coulter-Nile to mid-off.
Moises Henriques then struck twice in his first over.
Wright dragged on to his stumps before Hales, the world's top-ranked Twenty20 batsman, missed a slower ball to be trapped in front for 22.
England lost three for seven when Eoin Morgan was bowled swiping at Glenn Maxwell.
Jos Buttler hit the first six of the England innings in the eighth over, when he planted debutant leg-spinner James Muirhead over mid-wicket.
But the tourists' hopes were virtually ended when they again lost two wickets in the same over from Coulter-Nile.
Buttler and Root were both out to catches in the deep as the urgency of the situation, with 12 an over required, forced their hand.
England had managed just two sixes until that point, but Bopara kept them breathing as he twice cleared the ropes in over from Hazlewood and Henriques.
Australia made inroads at the other end with Muirhead bowling Tim Bresnan for his first international wicket.
With the game lost Bopara completed his six hitting in Hazlewood's last over to bring England closer and race to his half-century.
Australia got off to a flying start thanks to the century opening stand between White and Finch.
England should have had White early, though, when Root spilled a routine chance at first slip off Stuart Broad.
White was on 10 at the time and it proved costly as he and Finch made full use of the short boundary.
White mis-hit two maximums over the short rope and the 100-run stand was brought up from 59 balls when he revealed a defter touch to sweep Danny Briggs for four.
Broad gambled by bringing himself back for his third over, in just the 11th of the match, and crucially broke the opening stand.
Finch's attempt to clout him for another six fell short and Hales held on to end a 106-run partnership.
White greeted Melbourne Stars team-mate Wright with six, four, four. The fourth ball was caught, after a steepling top edge, only for the umpire to deem it a no-ball on height.
White used up all his luck though and when he tried to target the short boundary again before the end of the over, shuffling across his stumps, he missed to be lbw.
Wright's over still cost 18 runs, as did the next from Briggs, as his four-over spell cost 54.
The spinner was victim to an extraordinary Glenn Maxwell reverse swipe which went over point for six.
When Maxwell tried to replicate the stroke from a Bopara slower ball he miscued to Bresnan at point.
Chris Lynn made sure Australia fired past 200, with an unbeaten 37 from 19 balls, as 53 were taken from the final four overs.