Hales set the foundation for a series-levelling 27-run win in the second NatWest Twenty20 international against Australia with a 61-ball 94.
This time last year Hales went even closer, when he was bowled on 99 against West Indies at Trent Bridge, and he had appeared on course at Chester-le-Street to make up for that disappointment.
The 24-year-old combined in a 111-run stand with Michael Lumb (43) - a record opening partnership against Australia - but was denied his moment of redemption when he holed out in the deep in the penultimate over from James Faulkner.
"If someone offered you 94 at the start of the day you'd definitely take it," said Hales, who along with Luke Wright qualified for an ECB incremental contract following his appearance.
"They bowled pretty well at me and I didn't really get going once I got past 80. They bowled nicely to me at the death.
"I didn't really have much choice but to keep going. It was down to the last couple of overs. I was a little bit frustrated not to get over the line."
It was, however, still a match-defining performance as England's 195 for five proved more than adequate despite 53 in response from David Warner.
Jade Dernbach, who finished with figures of three for 23, claimed the key wicket of Warner - a ball after Steven Finn failed to get hands on a skied swipe - before removing Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner from consecutive balls.
The previously-maligned Dernbach therefore returned England's best figures for the second successive match after also taking three wickets in Thursday's 39-run defeat in Southampton.
"These two games he has bowled fantastically well for us," captain Stuart Broad said. "He has shown his skill in Twenty20 cricket on two pretty good batting surfaces.
"The rest of our bowlers can look at that - something different skill-wise. His figures over the two games have been superb and hopefully that form can continue until the World Cup."
Broad was also full of praise for his Nottinghamshire team-mate Hales, who has now scored six Twenty20 half-centuries in 21 games for England.
"If you get one of your top three to get 90 like 'Baz' did today then it's what you want," he said. "Everyone who has watched Twenty20 cricket knows that if any of your top three goes and gets over 80 you stand a great chance of winning the game.
"With the strikers we've got coming in - the likes of Morgan, Buttler and Bopara - if we get a good start you are in a fantastic position."
Despite Thursday's defeat, when Aaron Finch's world-record 156 inspired Australia's first win over England this summer, the hosts named an unchanged line-up for the second match.
With seven games to go before next year's World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, Broad suggested consistency in selection would benefit the side before then.
"Certainly at the international level I've found during my career that if you get a bit of consistency in a team and feel backed as a player then you are going to perform," he said.
"You saw England in the 1990s, they chopped and changed. You don't see the full potential of players. If you give them a proper run and they feel safe in their position then you will prosper from that."
Australia's disappointment in defeat, after they replied with 168 for nine, was tempered by the performance of their Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed.
Ahmed only became qualified to play for Australia in June, when a change in government legislation allowed his citizenship to be fast-tracked.
The 32-year-old, who fled his homeland three years ago to seek asylum in Australia, made his anticipated debut in Southampton before taking three for 25 here.
His first international wicket for his adopted country was that of Michael Lumb, who top-edged a sweep for wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to hang onto, prompting Ahmed to celebrate with a kiss to the heavens.
"He's pretty passionate. It meant a lot to him and would have meant a lot to all the people who have supported him," skipper George Bailey said.
"It was fantastic for him. We saw he has good control and good skills. He is someone who can have a lot of success.
"No matter what your age is, when you come into international cricket you want to know if you are good enough and where you stand.
"To Fawad's credit he handled that pressure really well. It's good to know for the future. I think that showed he has a good knowledge of his own game and self-belief."