Umar Gul's back-breaking spell of 6-42 turned a seemingly easy-looking chase into a nervy affair for England who in the end gave in to Pakistan's hunger for first win, going down by 23 runs at The Oval in third of the five-match ODI series, which England now lead 2-1.
England openers began their chase of 241 relatively well but Abdul Razaaq's introduction into the attack brought the dismissal of Steve Davies (18), soon followed by Jonathan Trott's (2), who was castled by Shoaib Akhtar.
Saeed Ajmal then struck 35 runs later to see the back of Ravi Bopara (7) who couldn't stay in with the skipper Andrew Strauss who continued from where he left in the second ODI. He continued to haunt Pakistan with his rich vain of form as the southpaw followed his century in the preveious match with a half century on Friday.
He, however, became Gul's first victim of the evening when he was bowled after having made 57.
All-rounder Luke Wright then joined Eoin Morgan after Michael Yardy (4) too failed to contribute. The two seemed to take Pakistan out of the equation with a 98-run stand when Afridi brought Gul back who responded with Morgan's wicket after the left-hander had made 61 runs.
Gul's purple patch continued and reduced England from a comfortable 201/5 to a sorry 211/9, with Wright and James Anderson guarding the last England wicket.
By the time the batting powerplay came - which happened in the last five overs - Gul had bowled out but that wasn't any respite for England as they had no breathing space left to take advantage of fielding restrictions.
Afridi summoned Razzaq to do the job for him and the all-rounder didn't take long to deliver, when he disturbed the timber behind Anderson to kick off celebrations on and off the field.
Earlier, James Anderson produced figures of 3-26 from 10 overs as Pakistan were bowled out for 241.
Anderson conceded just one boundary in his stint and dismissed Mohammad Hafeez in his first over before adding the wickets of Mohammad Yousuf and Saeed Ajmal. Tim Bresnan also took three wickets wrapping up the innings when he bowled Umar Gul in the last over.
Fawad Alam top-scored with 64 and Asad Shafiq made 40 but Pakistan could not accelerate significantly towards the end of their innings apart from a brief flurry from Abdul Razzaq (31).
Alam faced 86 balls as he set about rebuilding the innings after Pakistan lost two wickets in the first three overs and were 31-3 by the 10th.
After Friday's defeat, England's lead in the series has now been reduced to 2-1 after they won the first two matches.
(With inputs from AFP)