England completed the formalities of wrapping up a first successful Ashes tour of Australia in 24 years before lunch on the fourth day of the fourth Test in Melbourne, winning by an innings and 157 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
With home bowler Ryan Harris unable to bat due to injury, Andrew Strauss’ men knew they needed to take just three wickets to retain the urn and they duly did so, despite some admirable resistence from the Australia tail.
After Chris Tremlett had snared Mitchell Johnson in the second over of the day, Graeme Swann removed Peter Siddle before Tim Bresnan struck the historic blow, having Ben Hilfenhaus caught behind.
The win, with one Test in Sydney to come, means England cannot lose the series and that home captain Ricky Ponting is only the second Australia skipper to have three unsuccessful Ashes series.
On a glorious morning, England encountered resistance in the shape of Brad Haddin (55 not out) and Siddle’s eighth-wicket stand of 86.
They first deployed Bresnan – fresh from his three quick wickets last night - and Tremlett, with the old ball.
In his first over, Tremlett got the big breakthrough which suggested the session would be short – swinging one back into left-hander Johnson to bowl him on the defence via bat and pad.
Australia had begun in a hopeless situation, on 169 for six and 246 runs short of even making England bat again for the urn.
After only 11 balls, they were seven down – and it was common knowledge Harris was highly unlikely to bat in these circumstances, having suffered a stress fracture of his left ankle yesterday.
But Haddin’s defiance meant Australia soon topped 200 – they did not even reach three figures in their hapless first innings – and Siddle joined in by clubbing two front-foot boundaries in one over off Bresnan.
Siddle brought up the 50 stand with a slog-swept four off Swann, and in the same over Haddin smashed a six over long-on from the crease.
Against expectations, Australia made it past drinks – and almost immediately afterwards, Haddin reached an 86-ball 50 when his edge for three off Swann on 49 somehow evaded Paul Collingwood’s hands low down at slip.
The Australia wicketkeeper had hit four fours and a six, and Siddle soon counted another maximum off Swann over long-on.
But only one more wicket was required when Siddle picked out Kevin Pietersen on the long-on boundary with another attempted big hit off Swann.
That brought Hilfenhaus to the crease and he did not offer too much resistence to England’s ambitions, lasting just four balls before he nicked a Bresnan delivery to Matt Prior, prompting scenes of mass jubilation on the field and in the stands.