England captain Eoin Morgan paid tribute to Dawson and Crane by saying: "Our spinners were impressive and never let AB and Farhaan get away from us". Cue wild celebrations from the 22-year-old.
Liam Livingstone, who was making his debut for the hosts, was run out for 16 with two balls remaining meaning that England needed eight to win from the final two deliveries.
De Villiers continued to accelerate, getting down on one one knee to Willey and powering a huge six over his shoulder and into the River Tone.
Tom Curran's stunning entrance onto the global stage and a welcome return to form for Jason Roy could not prevent England from a three-run defeat in this second T20 worldwide against South Africa.
Du Plessis is back in South Africa to be with his wife, Imari, for the birth of their first child.
But skipper Morgan repeated after Wednesday's opening T20 thrashing of South Africa that if Roy stays at the crease for any length of time then the inevitable conclusion is an England victory. Roy had his back towards the fielder when the ball hit his toes, however, he was looking at the fielder when he was throwing the ball. "He's altered and he's seen where the ball is coming from so he's got to go".More news: South Korea Tests Missile As President Speaks Of Need To 'Dominate' North
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Bairstow looked likely to follow him to the landmark but, after some terrific shots including a bullet-like flat six over deep mid-wicket, he chipped Chris Morris to Behardien at long-on to fall for 47.
But when he chipped a full, inswinging delivery from the excellent Chris Morris to mid-on, it initiated a collapse that saw England lose five wickets for 42 runs in the next six overs.
Roy soon went, Joss Buttler was superbly yorked by Phehlukwayo and Morgan picked out AB de Villiers at mid-wicket as England's hopes faded as quickly as the light.
This happened while Roy was rushing back after his partner Liam Livingston refused a run, as he turned and ran across the pitch and the ball struck his boot as he made his way back.
Roy was the key wicket that the Proteas wanted and they got it in freaky circumstances when he was given out for obstructing the field on 67 which really angered the England fans and players. He had made 67 off 45 balls and England were in a strong position when he was in the middle.
England won the first of the three-match series by nine wickets. But Livingstone and Liam Dawson could not turn the South African momentum as Phehlukwayo kept his cool.