England clinched a dramatic victory with a day to spare in the fourth Test in Durham to win the Ashes outright as Australia suffered a sudden collapse chasing 299 runs for victory.
Alastair Cook’s side were bowled out for 330 in their second innings as the hosts set Australia a tough target to win the fourth Test and keep the series alive, but the tourists capitulated in the final session to fall 74 runs short as Stuart Broad starred with six wickets and 11 in the match.
It was a thrilling victory for England as Andy Flower’s men sealed a third successive Ashes series win with the fifth Test at The Oval still remaining after Australia had appeared to be in the ascendancy for much of a topsy-turvy day.
The last time England won three matches in an Ashes series at home was in 1985 when they won the series 3-1 and Cook's side again had the edge when it mattered.
A jubilant Cook said: "That noise in that last session was fantastic. It was a fantastic wicket to play on and a great spell from Broad, words do not do it justice. He gets on those runs time and time again. Ian Bell played another outstanding innings, he's in great form and great to watch and has had a fantastic series."
Clarke, despondent after a third defeat, said: "At the end of the day to only lose by 74 runs, we can take positives but our middle order wasn't good enough today. Ryan Harris was outstanding and we've still got a lot to play for - The Oval is very important and we will look to improve there."
Ryan Harris took seven wickets in a masterful display as England, led again by the prolific Ian Bell, who hit 113 with a third century for the series, set a total that was always going to be challenging for the tourists.
David Warner got Clarke’s side on their way with a gutsy 71 alongside first-innings centurion Chris Rogers, who scored 49, but Australia proceeded to implode in dramatic fashion from 109 without loss to 224 all out.
Remarkably, Australia appeared relatively comfortable with 120-1 on the board at the tea break, but man-of-the-match Broad produced heroics to haul England to victory with the second 10-wicket haul of his career as the tourists lost six wickets for just 31 runs during a breathless final session.
Fittingly, despite having to be taken out of the attack due to bad light, Broad was allowed to return after the extra half-hour had been afforded to the hosts to close out victory as Peter Siddle chipped a full ball straight to James Anderson to prompt wild celebrations.
"That was amazing," Broad told Sky Sports. "Australia gave us nothing in that middle session of the day and we had to regroup at tea.
"The atmosphere here kept us going and at the end we prayed for a bit of sunshine and it went our way. I found a nice rhythm at the top end of the ground and just tried to be aggressive."
Tim Bresnan initially triggered the collapse as he found a touch of extra bounce to catch the edge of dangerman Warner, who had combined in the first century opening stand of the series - by either side - with Rogers.
Australia were still seemingly favourites when Warner was the third man out with 131 required, but when Broad bowled skipper Clarke with a stunning delivery straight after the final drinks break, the tourists began their slump towards defeat.
In a chaotic half-hour, Bresnan and Broad dismissed Clarke, Steve Smith, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin to expose the tail, who at least managed to hold on long enough to take the game into an extra half-hour.
At one point, England were forced to bowl their spinners as the light faded, but the drama was complete when Broad was allowed to return to have Siddle caught by Anderson at mid-off.
Earlier in a pulsating day, England lost their final five wickets in the opening 90 minutes but, more critically, added a very valuable 96 runs in 21.1 overs.
Harris posted Test-best figures of 7-113 - including bowling overnight centurion Bell - to halt England and keep the tourists in a strong position going into their second innings, despite nightwatchman Bresnan hitting 45 in a valiant resistance.
But Australia would again be left to rue their efforts with the bat in a series in which their middle order has been repeatedly exposed by England's bowlers, and an early-evening procession ensured that the hosts regained the momentum.
England, having retained the Ashes by holding on for an unconvincing draw at Old Trafford, were left to celebrate once more after closing out victory in fading light at the Riverside Ground to win the series outright ahead of the fifth Test at The Oval.