Hampshire won another T20 Blast thriller by just two runs - after being given a late scare by former player Benny Howell.

Jimmy Adams’ unbeaten 69, his highest T20 score for four years, helped Hampshire to 180-6 against Gloucestershire - their highest total of the season.

Then Will Smith 3-26 and Matt Coles 2-29 put Hampshire in firm control as Gloucestershire collapsed from 61 without loss to 82-5 midway through their reply.

But they reckoned without Howell, whose 22-ball fifty ensured the visitors took the game to the final ball.

Howell thumped new dad Danny Briggs for three sixes, including two in succession over the shortest long-on boundary.

Then he pulled Wood for his fourth maximum over the longest boundary, followed by one-bounce fours through extra cover, against Wood and Abbott, before Tom Smith ended the 18th over by audaciously flicking Kyle Abbott for six over square leg.

Having seemingly been out of the game, Gloucestershire found themselves needing 28 off the last two overs, leaving Hampshire’s biggest crowd of the season on tenterhooks.

Chris Wood responded with a good penultimate over, leaving 20 required from the last six balls.

But a bad night for Abbott continued as young Tom Smith hit three successive fours on his way to an unbeaten 30 from only 13 balls.

He whipped two behind square before getting enough bat on a yorker to leave eight required from the last three balls.

After a quick single, Howell completed his fifty from only 22 balls, only to be run out as he returned for a second.

Thankfully for Hampshire, it was asking too much of Graeme McCarter to hit the last ball for six.

Michael Carberry began the night by batting out a maiden against former Bournemouth star David Payne, but captain James Vince blitzed a 20-ball 39 as Gloucestershire conceded 52-1 during the powerplay Vince was still in the form of his life following his record-breaking 240 in the LV County Championship.

A thumping drive through extra cover was followed by an inside-out drive for six over long-off against Graeme McCarter.

But after three successive fours against the slow left-arm of Smith, two cuts and another disdainful on drive, he was caught at long-off at the end of the powerplay.

Successive sixes by Glenn Maxwell, both launched against the off-spin of Jack Taylor over the biggest boundary – at long-off and mid-wicket – maintained the tempo as Hampshire raced to 97-2 after ten overs.

Maxwell continued the assault by whipping successive fours behind square against Payne to go to his highest score at The Ageas Bowl.

When the Australian was bowled for a 16-ball 30 attempting to pull Smith, Adams rose to the challenge, driving Smith over long-on for the first of his two sixes before reaching fifty in the 17th over with a straight maximum against McCarter.

Gloucestershire’s first-wicket pair, captain Matt Klinger and Alex Gidman put on 61 in eight overs, including 48 from the powerplay.

Gidman swept Will Smith’s off-spin for six in the opening over and Klinger launched Matt Coles over mid-wicket during the powerplay.

But they were both dismissed in the space of three Smith deliveries.

Coles, so impressive with the ball in the defeat at Taunton, bowled Ian Cockbain and Hamish Marshall with slower balls at the beginning and end of his third over, the 12th of the innings.

Then Howell, who put on 54 from only 24 balls with Smith, entered the fray.

He left Hampshire in 2011 so he could play more first-team cricket, having come through the county’s academy.

So the second fifty of his career would have been so much sweeter had it come in a winning cause.

He said: “It was obviously pleasing to score the runs that I did, we were behind the rate throughout and I just tried to hit as many fours and sixes as I could.”

Hampshire’s win was not enough to send them back to the top of the South Division due to Essex’s win against Middlesex.

Hampshire bowling: Smith 4-0-26-3, Wood 4-0-37-0, Abbott 4-0-46-0, Coles 4-0-29-2, Briggs 4-0-34-1