Sri Lanka survived Jos Buttler's maiden international century to level the one-day series after defeating England by seven runs in a thrilling game at Lord's.

England looked set to take an unassailable lead in the seires, requiring 12 off the final over and achieve their second highest one-day run chase but Lasith Malinga (3-52) took the wicket of Chris Jordan (5) and ran out Buttler (121) to see the tourists square the series at 2-2.

Kumar Sangakkara's 112 illuminated a Sri Lanka innings of 300 for 9 and when Malinga dismissed captain Alastair Cook (1) and Ian Bell (7) in his first two overs, England looked set for a heavy defeat.

Gary Balance (42), Joe Root (43) and Eoin Morgan (12) all followed to leave England requiring 190 to win with less than 22 overs remaining but Buttler and Ravi Bopara (51) put on 133 for the sixth wicket in an inspired display to seemingly put Cook's side on the brink.

But Malinga's brilliance was the difference and sets up an series decider at Edgbaston on Tuesday, while England will be left to consider a performance which for so long looked lathargic.

The result secures the series with a match remaining and represents the perfect start to the new era in English cricket following a disastrous winter and an unsettling upheaval of both coaching and playing staff.

Looking to polish off the series with a game to spare, England captain Alastair Cook chose to bowl in overcast conditions hoping to repeat the Sri Lankan collapse from Old Trafford on Thursday.

And the hosts began encouragingly as after Kusal Perera (19) hit a six over deep square leg, the opener attempted another pull and sliced Harry Gurney straight to Jordan at first slip.

The breakthrough brought Sangakkara to the crease alongside Tilikaratne Dilshan and the pair soon put on a 50-partnership as England, though restricting regular boundaries, put the onus on defence with Root and James Tredwell given the ball.

Sangakkara and Dilshan took advantage of such a containing ploy as both went to their respective half-centuries and recorded their 100-partnership in the 24th over.

The middle-over pressure was swelling on Peter Moores' men and as the returning sun made conditions perfect for batting England were unable to stem the flow of runs – Sangakkara's consecutive fours off Tredwell helping Sri Lanka hone in on a daunting total.

With the partnership at 172, James Anderson's return helped claim the decisive scalp as Dilshan went for a scoop and was bowled by the Lancashire seamer.

The wicket did nothing to deter Sangakkara from reaching his century however, bringing up his first hundred at Lord's off 95 balls but new man Mahela Jayawardene (7) couldn't replicate such impeccable timing and found Anderson at mid-off off Gurney.

The wickets were beginning to flow and Sangakkara soon followed, stumped by Buttler off Tredwell, for a stunning 112 as Sri Lanka stumbled in the final ten overs.

Lahiru Thirimanne (16) pulled to Ballance, Angelo Mathews (30) sparkled before holing out to Anderson off Jordan who then bowled Nuwan Kulasekara (0) as England staged a spirited fight back.

Gurney took the wickets of Ashas Priyanjan (9) and Sachithra Senanayake (12) in the final over to finish with 4-55 as England restricted the away side to 300 for 9.

But England's hopes of chasing their highest ever total to beat Sri Lanka is a one-day game took a blow when Lasith Malinga trapped Cook (1) lbw after a review and had Bell (7) caught behind to leave the home side 10 for 2.

Ballance and Joe Root were charged with rebuilding the innings and put on a fifty partnership in 75 balls, with the pair refraining from risking their wickets though at the expense of falling behind the required rate.

The duo's partnership moved to 83 when Balance (42) edged a reverse-sweep off Ajantha Mendis straight to the keeper Sangakkara and Root (43) soon followed with a top edge to long leg off Mathews.

Morgan made just 12 from 17 balls before being stumped by Sangakkara off Senanayake to leave England requiring a minor miracle to reach their target having not scored a boundary since the ninth over.

Buttler ended that inauspicious run in the 30th over with a sweep past backward point and the wicket-keeper batsman continued to go on the offensive with four boundaries in eight deliveries to hand England a glimmer of hope.

As England took the batting powerplay in a faint attempt to turn their fortunes around Buttler and Bopara reach their half-century for the sixth wicket and the former reached 50 with a splendid shot over deep extra-cover for six.

That milestone galvanised England and Buttler went six-four off Malinga to leave them requiring 92 from the final 10 overs, with five wickets in hand and when the century partnership came up the home side had further reason to be encouraged.

The pressure that had ratcheted up on the Sri Lanka field, as Bopara went to 50, was relinquished when the Essex man swept Mendis to leg slip but Buttler was unperturbed, hitting Kulasekara for successive sixes before a four over deep extra cover.

Another spritely run two saw Buttler reach his highest one-day score and first international century to put England on the brink, needing 12 runs off the final Malinga over.

However, Jordan (5) holed out to Dilshan and Malinga ran-out Buttler to leave England eight runs short of the total required and saw Sri Lanka set up a series decider at Edgbaston following a compelling contest.