Relentless Australia bury England and regain Ashes
England's hopes of reclaiming the Ashes finally disappeared after a brave 11th-hour resistance against Australia came up short on a nerve-racking final evening at Old Trafford.
Charged with the improbable prospect of nullifying the touring attack for 98 overs on the fifth day, the home side bristled with determination only for it to end in disappointment in front of a 23,500 sell-out in Manchester.
Australia finally dismissed them for 197 at 6.15pm, with a 185-run win giving them an unassailable 2-1 lead that means they will retain the urn regardless of events at The Oval next week.
That makes Joe Root the first England captain not to see off the old enemy on home soil since Nasser Hussain in 2001, and means outgoing head coach Trevor Bayliss will end his World Cup-winning reign on a sour note in the longer format.
Australia celebrated joyously on the outfield when Josh Hazlewood claimed the decisive lbw against Craig Overton, but they had been made to wait for their party by a gutsy batting performance.
Overton was one of three batsmen to face 100 or more deliveries on the day, joining Joe Denly (53) and Jos Buttler (34), but their collective efforts were not enough to conjure a sequel to Ben Stokes' miracle of Headingley last time out.
England looked down and out when their last specialist batsman, Buttler, departed at 4.50pm but Overton and Jack Leach, reprising his unlikely role from Leeds, delayed Australia for more than an hour as memories of past rearguards came vividly to life.
It was not be, Leach unpicked by part-time leg-spinner Marnus Labuschagne in a bold gambit and Overton trapped in front by Hazlewood in the 92nd over.
Australia captain Tim Paine praised the way his team battled back from the disappointment of Headingley to ensure the Ashes are heading back Down Under.
Paine said: "This team's been through a lot in the last 12 to 18 months and I think the character we've shown to bounce back - even from Headingley last week - shows a lot about the character of the people we've got in our side.
"It's been an unbelievable series, it's been intense, every game's gone pretty much down to the wire and that's what we expected and prepared for."
Australia star Steve Smith added: "I've been here a few times when things haven't quite gone our way or we haven't performed to the best of our ability.
"To come back and get the urn here was always one to tick off my bucket list.
"There's another game left and we'd love to win it but to know it's coming home is extremely satisfying.
"The boys were getting a bit tight out there but with the new ball we thought we'd get enough chances.
"They (England) fought incredibly hard but fortunately the boys got the job done."
Australia coach Justin Langer argued: "The players take all the credit, but a lot of hard work and planning goes into this.
"This series has been incredible for Test cricket and it's nice to get the job done."
Root expressed his disappointment at losing the Ashes but hailed the character of his side in pushing Australia to the wire.
He said: "I thought we showed great character, great fight and great belief in what we wanted to achieve.
"As last week we always believed, we always make sure we fight right until the end and we tried our hardest today.
"You can always look at different areas where you could have done things slightly differently but I couldn't be more proud of the effort the guys put in today.
"Another great Test match, but it's bitterly disappointing.
"From today's point of view, I am really proud. You learn a lot about your team. Everyone stood up and played bravely.
"We have seen some wonderful Test cricket and I expect the same at The Oval. We want to level the series. We have to pick ourselves up and turn up at The Oval.
"Every batter, bar Steve Smith, has been under pressure. It's been one of those summers where batting has been hard.
"Steve Smith has been hard work to get out. Ultimately, he was the difference this Test match."