The 34-year old all-rounder rediscovered his very best form with a sensational knock to guide Notts through to the semi-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Patel scored an unbeaten 136, his highest score in limited-overs cricket, as the Outlaws chased down a victory target of 326 against Northants Steelbacks at Wantage Road.
The visitors had been reduced to 116 for five and were seemingly out of the contest until a record-breaking 111-run sixth-wicket partnership between Patel and Tom Moores turned the tables.
Only a win would guarantee a home tie in the last four and it was brought a little closer when Moores blasted 69 from only 55 balls to support Patel and take the contest deep into the final overs.
There were still 70 runs required from the final seven overs and 33 from the last three but wickets fell steadily at the other end.
Last man Jake Ball joined Patel with 12 still needed from the final over but he did not have to face a ball, as the former England international pulled Ben Sanderson for six and then cut him for two fours to seal the astonishing win.
Patel had not scored a hundred in any format for Notts for almost exactly 12 months, so the innings meant so much to him.
“I was due for a score and needed a score really,” he said. “Just to put to rest a few people who might have been thinking I was past it, I’m back.”
Notts have an impressive recent record in the competition having progressed out of the group stage in six of the past seven seasons and Patel admitted to lofty expectations being set before the tournament began.
“We’d targeted a home semi-final,” he said. “It’s something we aim for and we’ve done that now but we’ve still got work to do.
“We haven’t won anything yet, so need to work hard and stay humble and play good cricket and play competitive cricket.”
Notts will not know the identity of their opponents until after Friday’s knock-out matches but they do know it will be a Trent Bridge tie against either Worcestershire or Somerset.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” said Patel. “This will be the last Lord’s final for a few years and we desperately want to get there.”
Patel, the player for the big occasion, was man-of-the-match when the Outlaws defeated Glamorgan to win the one-day final in 2013 and was also a member of the winning side two years ago.
“It’s always a special day and it’s a great feeling when you go there and win,” he said. “We’ve been lucky enough to do it twice recently and want to do it again.”