Stuart Broad got the dream finish he wanted as England signed off a memorable Ashes summer in style, flooring Australia in an intoxicating finale at the Kia Oval to square the series 2-2.
Broad took the last two wickets to fall as he headed into retirement in triumph in a 49-run win, the stage having been set by the outstanding efforts of Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali.
A rain-ruined draw at Old Trafford had already ensured the urn would be heading Down Under with the holders, but England have been an irresistible force at times and anything less than a share of the spoils would have been an injustice.
They took all 10 Australian wickets on the final day of the final Test, rallying to the cause despite losing the entire afternoon to more bad weather.
Woakes was impeccable – taking four for 50 – and Moeen bagged three vital scalps too as the tourists were rolled over for 334.
But Broad has never been one to shy away from the limelight and there was a satisfying sense of closure as he applied the finishing touches.
He left Australia nine down when he dismissed tailender Todd Murphy with the very next ball after reprising his bail-swapping superstition and nobody in the ground was in any doubt that it would be the departing 37-year-old who would end things.
England’s ultimate Ashes warrior had bowled beautifully without luck all day but found fortune in his favour exactly when he wanted it, snaring Alex Carey’s outside edge at 6.25pm.
The sun had not yet set in south London, but it has on Broad’s career, in the best way possible.
After the match, Broad said: “It was absolutely wonderful. I thought Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali set the tone absolutely unbelievably. Woakesy picked up a couple of wickets, particularly Steve Smith, who has just been a wonderful player to play against all these years.
Ashes fifth Test - Day 5
"Once we got a couple we really started to believe. The crowd were unbelievable. It was so loud and we just jumped on the back of that. To contribute to the team with two wickets is very special.
"When you make that decision you wonder what your last ball will be so to take a wicket to win an Ashes Test match is pretty cool."
He added: "A special mention to Moeen, he's not officially announced he's moving on, but we've played a lot together and he's been such a special friend. To put that performance in to help England win an Ashes Test match will be a dream come true for him."
England captain Ben Stokes said: "I think 2-2 at the end of a series like this is a fair reflection of two teams literally going toe-to-toe. Australia are world Test champions, absolute quality team, but being 2-0 down after the first two games, I don't think many teams would have been able to respond in the manner in which we did.
"So I'm incredibly proud of everyone's efforts that they've put in, particularly with the bowlers – Woakesy's played three games and he's just walked off with the player of the series.
"Standing here, I'm pretty content with everything we've achieved over the last seven weeks."
Australian captain Pat Cummins said of Broad: "Ashes series always seem to define Aussie and English cricketers and a fitting end to an all-time great and his longevity as a fast bowler, I know it's not easy, big kudos to him.
"Going one further would have been nice but in saying that I think we can be really proud of retaining the Ashes and the way we have played. Winning the World Test Championships on this ground too. It's been a great tour and it's good to retain and have something to show for it.”
Australia had started the final day on 135 without loss with openers David Warner on 58 not out and Usman Khawaja unbeaten on 69.
England all-rounder Woakes made the first inroads by removing Warner (60) and Khawaja (72) in a stunning burst of two wickets for one run in seven balls to make it 141-2.
Express quick Mark Wood then had Marnus Labuschagne caught in the slips for 13 to leave Australia 169-3.
Steve Smith, who was dropped at leg gully by Stokes, was 40 not out and left-hander Travis Head 31 not out as they steered Australia to 238-3, needing 146 more runs for victory, before rain put paid to the afternoon session.
When play resumed, the pair extended their fourth-wicket stand to 95 when off-spinner Moeen, in what could be his last Test appearance, turned a ball out of the rough.
Head, on 43, tried to drive, with Joe Root holding a routine catch at first slip.
Australia then lost their star batsman when Smith fell for 54, edging an excellent full-length delivery from paceman Woakes to Zak Crawley at second slip.
The tourists slipped to 274-6 when Moeen had all-rounder Mitchell Marsh brilliantly caught by diving wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow before Woakes and Crawley combined to dismiss Mitchell Starc for a duck.
Captain Cummins was next to go, caught by Stokes off Moeen for nine.
But with Australia needing 55 to win, Broad, who on Saturday made a shock announcement that he would retire after the match, produced a brilliant delivery to take tailender Murphy's outside edge, with Bairstow holding another fine diving catch to leave Australia on the brink of defeat at 329-9.
Broad then had Carey edging behind only for Crawley to drop a tough low chance at second slip before the 37-year-old ended his career in fairytale fashion by having the wicketkeeper caught behind.