Recent theory has suggested a mechanistic relationship between resource availability, competition and invasibility. In a field experiment, in which we manipulated resources and competition, we confirmed that changes in resource availability affected competition intensity, which in turn affected invasibility. We found that fluctuations in resource availability of as short as a few weeks had a large impact on plant invasion success (survival and percentage cover), including up to 1 year following the fluctuations. If resource availability is a primary mechanism controlling invasibility, it may serve as a unifying concept that can integrate earlier ideas regarding invasibility. The results emphasize the important role of history in the invasion process, particularly the occurrence of stochastic, short-lived events that temporarily reduce or suspend competition and increase invasibility. Therefore, it may be very difficult, or even impossible, to reconstruct the ecology of particular invasions after the fact.