The lithium-sulfur battery holds a high theoretical energy density, 4-5 times that of today's lithium-ion batteries, yet its applications have been hindered by poor electronic conductivity of the sulfur cathode and, most importantly, the rapid fading of its capacity due to the formation of soluble polysulfide intermediates (Li(2)S(n), n = 4-8). Despite numerous efforts concerning this issue, combatting sulfur loss remains one of the greatest challenges. Here we show that this problem can be effectively diminished by controlling the sulfur as smaller allotropes. Metastable small sulfur molecules of S(2-4) were synthesized in the confined space of a conductive microporous carbon matrix. The confined S(2-4) as a new cathode material can totally avoid the unfavorable transition between the commonly used large S(8) and S(4)(2-). Li-S batteries based on this concept exhibit unprecedented electrochemical behavior with high specific capacity, good cycling stability, and superior rate capability, which promise a practicable battery with high energy density for applications in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and large-scale energy storage systems.