Kevin Pietersen defied his close friend Shane Warne to score an outrageous maiden Test century at The Oval and seal England's first Ashes triumph for almost two decades on Monday.
Pietersen broke Australian hearts as he brushed off three dropped catches, one before he had even scored, to score 158 and ensure a draw on the last day of the weather-affected fifth and final Test.
That gave the home team a 2-1 series win.
Six runs ahead after the first innings and resuming their second on 34 for one, England recovered from a top-order collapse to bat out almost the entire day before being dismissed for 335.
The world champions, who had been hoping to set up a run chase in the final session, were left to face less than an over from Steve Harmison, getting to four without loss before accepting both the light and their historic defeat.
The South Africa-born Pietersen was eighth man out, bowled by a Glenn McGrath leg-cutter, but by then he had saved the game.
He hit seven sixes and 15 fours, faced 187 balls and batted for four and three-quarter hours, helping to put on 60 for the sixth wicket with Paul Collingwood and 109 for the seventh with Ashley Giles.
Warne produced a mammoth, exhausting performance to take six wickets for 124 to go with his six for 122 in the first innings, but did not get enough support from his team mates.
England battled back after losing the opening Test at Lord's by 229 runs. They last won the Ashes in 1986-87, Australia winning a record eight series in a row since.
When Pietersen was finally dismissed, Warne ran over to him to shake his hand as he headed for the pavilion in the evening shadows.
Australia, hoping to set up a run chase in the final session to retain the Ashes, had to bow to the inevitable.
Michael Vaughan's side had looked to be tottering towards defeat at lunch as the collective genius of Warne and McGrath reduced them to 127 for five.
Pietersen, however, in his first Test series for his adopted country, mixed his unlikely good fortune with extraordinary leg-side shot-making.
Refusing to rein back, his audacity during the afternoon had the anxiety-ridden 23,000 capacity crowd singing again.
For Warne, Pietersen's friend and Hampshire team mate and who dropped the easiest chance he offered when on 15, there were few consolations, just a few additions to the record books.
In his last Test in England and one day short of his 36th birthday, the leg spinner completed 40 wickets for the series and 172 in all against his favourite opponents, surpassing the previous Australian record of 167 by Dennis Lillee.