Victory for the home side at the Oval means the Ashes ends in a draw for the first time since 1972, although holders Australia retain the urn.
The tourists, chasing an unlikely 399 to win in a shade under two days, clung on late into the evening session on the fourth day before finally collapsing as the shadows lengthened in south London.
Australia, 2-1 up going into the match, were bidding to win their first Ashes series in England since 2001 but were denied by the fired-up hosts, with paceman Jofra Archer named man of the match for his six first-innings wickets.
“A very good performance,” said England captain Joe Root. “I thought we were brilliant. To bounce back from a very difficult emotional week, to come and play in the manner we have, the team has character in abundance. “This was more of a template of how to play moving forward. It is a step in the right direction. I am very proud of everyone’s effort throughout the summer.”
Stuart Broad struck early to remove openers Marcus Harris and David Warner but while former captain Steve Smith was at the crease, Australia retained a faint hope of victory. But when Ben Stokes dived to his left at leg slip to catch Smith for 23, giving Broad his third wicket of the innings, England knew they had removed the biggest obstacle in their victory charge. Smith, who scored an astonishing 774 runs in just seven innings, was out for a score of less than fifty for the first time in the series. The Oval crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked back to the dressing room in the September sunshine, with Australia in deep trouble at 85-4 in the post-lunch session. Matthew Wade offered brave resistance, scoring 117 as Archer cranked his speed up to 95 miles-per-hour in the evening sunlight, eye-balling the Australian batsman in an attempt to intimidate him. Occasional bowler Root finally got his man, luring him forward as Jonny Bairstow whipped off the bails. Left-arm spinner Jack Leach removed Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood in successive balls, meaning England salvaged pride two months after winning the one-day World Cup for the first time. Broad and Leach both finished with four wickets.
Earlier, England added 16 runs to their overnight tally, with Archer and Leach the last men out. Broad then pounded in, roared on by a packed crowd, reducing Australia to 29-2. Warner, who returned to international cricket in June after a 12-month ban for ball-tampering, scored just 95 runs in 10 innings and was dismissed by Broad seven times. Warner’s dismissal brought Smith to the crease and he opened his account with a sweet drive through the covers for four off Archer but this time he could not find the magic. The exit of Smith, also banned over the ball-tampering scandal, led to one or two isolated boos but they were drowned out by applause from the crowd in appreciation of his run-scoring feats. His run haul put him fifth on the list of highest tallies in an Ashes series behind Don Bradman’s two entries, England’s Wally Hammond and former Australia skipper Mark Taylor. Smith was named Australia’s man of the series while Stokes won the award for England.
“It meant a lot to have that reception from the crowd today,” said Smith. “It’s been an amazing couple of months with the World Cup and the Ashes, the cricket has been spectacular. “The series has ebbed and flowed. I’ve loved every minute and I’m really proud of how I’ve been able to perform for Australia and to bring the urn home.” The tourists won the first Test at Edgbaston and the fourth at Old Trafford while Stokes inspired England to victory in the third Test at Headingley. The second match, at Lord’s, was drawn.