Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side knew that a win was essential after having already been defeated to Australia, and they comfortably chased 129 runs to win with 18 balls to spare.
Pakistan won the toss and posted an insignificant 128 - their lowest ever World Twenty20 total - as they were bowled out with two balls remaining in their 20 overs, and a stunning 78 from Virat Kohli ensured that India reached their target with consummate ease.
The result leaves Pakistan second in Group 2 with a marginally superior net run-rate over India in third, with South Africa without a single point after they were thrashed by Australia earlier in the day.
India’s victory was their first in the Super Eights stage of the competition since 2007, and was absolutely crucial in giving them the opportunity of still progressing into the semi-finals.
Mohammad Hafeez led the way for his side, but did not bat fluently as he struggled for his 15 off 28 balls before being bowled by Kohli, and his opening partner Imran Nazir could only last five balls for his eight.
Shahid Afridi was surprisingly elevated to number three, and the pinch-hitter delivered two lusty blows before he holed out with a rash stroke, with Lakshmiathy Balaji taking his wicket for the cost of 14 runs.
Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal both fell cheaply, for four and five, respectively, as Pakistan continued their slump during the middle overs with Balaji picking up three wickets.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuvraj Singh each took two wickets, and it was left to Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal to score brisk 20s in a desperate bid to haul their side up to a respectable total.
As it was, Pakistan’s score was not competitive, and Umar Gul’s quickfire 12 was not enough for them to salvage the situation in the final overs as India bowled out their opponents with two balls remaining.
Pakistan sensed that a flurry of wickets could be on the cards as opener Gautam Gambhir fell second ball to the left-arm spin of Raza Hasan, who completed a very fine caught and bowled.
Virender Sehwag racked up four boundaries in a burst of attacking strokes, but he fell for 29 as Afridi picked up a wicket with Gul taking the catch. It would prove to be Pakistan’s last strike.
Kohli looked utterly serene throughout, and he plundered 10 boundaries, including two maximums, as he led his side to their target in stunning fashion.
Yuvraj was alongside him on 19 not out as the pair reached the target of 129 with fully three overs to spare, and it amounted to a huge victory for India, just when it was most required.
The result leaves South Africa adrift without a single point after two matches, with India and Pakistan set to battle it out for a semi-final spot in their final games behind the swaggering Australia.