The stakes were impossibly high for the hosts after back-to-back defeats but Eoin Morgan’s side held their nerve in a 31-run success, ending India’s undefeated streak and reclaiming their own place in the top four.
Bairstow’s suggestion that critics were “waiting for us to fail” had been poorly received during the week but he repaid any lingering debt in style, striking 111 to set up an imposing 337 for seven.
Bairstow did not go into battle alone, fit-again opening partner Jason Roy setting the tone with an aggressive 66 and Ben Stokes making it three half-centuries in a row with his bustling 79, but his knock did the heaviest lifting.
Roared on by a hugely partisan crowd which flipped home advantage on its head, India needed luck and skill if they were to make a record World Cup chase and Rohit Sharma had both.
Dropped at slip by Joe Root with just four to his name he went on to make 102.
But despite that England’s attack showed their mettle, Chris Woakes taking two wickets and a glorious boundary catch while Liam Plunkett justified his recall in place of Moeen Ali with three for 55 - including master batsman Virat Kohli.
The Indian captain was not happy post-match and went on to question the dimensions of the boundaries at Edgbaston having witnessed his team suffer their first defeat of the World Cup.
The wicket at the ground was off-centre, meaning one boundary was noticeably shorter on one side than the other, and England routinely took advantage after deciding to bat first.
The hosts cleared the rope on 13 occasions while India managed to do so only once in their chase, in the final over when Mahendra Singh Dhoni bludgeoned a six to the wider boundary.
Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony: “(The toss) was vital, especially looking at the boundary that was quite short.
“I think it was 59 metres which coincidentally is the minimum amount required in an international match. Quite bizarre on a flat pitch. It’s crazy that things fall in place like that, randomly.
“But we should have been clinical because the wicket was flat. We could have accelerated and got closer to their total.
“If batsmen are able to reverse sweep you for six on a 59-metre boundary there is not much you can do. And one side was 82 metres.”
India must therefore wait to book their semi-final spot but Kohli added: “Look, every team has lost a game here and there.
“No one likes to lose but you have to accept the other side played better.
“They were just more clinical in terms of their execution with their plan, so we’ll have to accept that.
“The mood is absolutely the same in the changing room. It’s a setback.
“As professional cricketers, we understand that.
“We have got to brush it aside, learn from it and move forward.”
England, meanwhile, may not need to see off New Zealand at Chester-le-Street to seal a semi-final place but they go into their last group game knowing nobody can stop them if they do.
If Morgan’s men win their final group game, they are certain to qualify and will leapfrog opponents New Zealand in the standings - avoiding the first-placed finishers, likely to be Australia, in the last four.
Lose to the Black Caps and England will be left relying on results elsewhere, with Pakistan a point behind and Bangladesh three back with a game in hand.
They would need Pakistan to lose their remaining game - but that is against Bangladesh, meaning England would also require the Tigers to first lose to India.
A no-result between Pakistan and Bangladesh would also see England through on games won.
A no-result between England and New Zealand would leave the hosts on 11 points, behind both their opponents and Australia.
Pakistan could overhaul them with one win or Bangladesh with two, but both would need to significantly boost their nett run-rate.
Two defeats for India would also see England through in that scenario.