Only once in Ashes history has a team come from 2-0 down to win when Australia, inspired by Don Bradman, cricket’s greatest batsman, did just that to triumph 3-2 on home soil in 1936/37.
And given batting remains this Australia side’s Achilles heel, they will do well from this position to stop England retaining the urn.
Australia, set a mammoth 583 for an improbable victory, were dismissed for 235 on the fourth day.
The tourists’ last-wicket pair of James Pattinson and Ryan Harris held firm for more than an hour, with England claiming the extra half hour.
But with just three balls left in the day’s play, off-spinner Graeme Swann had Pattinson, who had frustrated England with the bat in their 14-run first Test win at Trent Bridge, lbw for 35 to the acclaim of a capacity and sun-drenched crowd.
Swann finished with innings figures of four wickets for 78 runs for a match haul of nine for 122.
The scale of Australia’s task was clear from the fact that no side have made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than the West Indies’ 418 for seven against Australia at St John’s in 2002/03.
Man-of-the-match Joe Root starred with both bat and ball, making 180 in England’s second innings 347 for nine declared before the occasional off-spinner took two wickets shortly before tea to spark an Australia middle-order collapse.
“We’ve played some good cricket over the last couple of weeks but we’ve also had to scrap hard after being 30 for three in both of our innings in this match,” said England captain Alastair Cook.
Root’s hundred was his second in three Tests after his 104 against New Zealand at his Headingley home ground in May.
“I think this is more special than my maiden hundred,” said Root.
“To get a hundred against Australia is always something you dream of growing up and to do it at Lord’s is very special.”
Australia captain Michael Clarke bemoaned his side’s latest poor batting effort which saw them shot out for just 128 in their first innings.
“It was not acceptable and against good opposition it’s hard to win from that position,” said Clarke.
England had resumed Sunday on 333 for five, already a lead of 566, with Root, attacked by now sidelined Australia batsman David Warner in a Birmingham bar in June, hitting the tourists where it hurt.
There was no immediate declaration with Root given the chance to turn his second Test century into 200.
But when he holed out off Harris, to end a 338-ball innings including 18 fours and two sixes spanning nearly eight hours, Cook called a halt.
Australia lost their first wicket Sunday inside seven overs when Shane Watson was lbw to James Anderson to add to his numerous collection of leg-before exits.
And 24 for one soon became 36 for three when Swann struck fifth ball Sunday to bowl Chris Rogers playing no stroke and then had Phil Hughes, another left-hander, lbw.
Not for the first time, Clarke came in with his side in dire straits.
And he should have been out for two only for wicketkeeper Matt Prior to miss the stumping chance off Swann.
Just when it seemed Australia would deny England a wicket in Sunday’s second session, Root’s dream match continued when he removed both Clarke (51) and Usman Khawaja (54) for one run in 11 balls with the aid of close catches by Cook and Anderson respectively.
Then seamer Tim Bresnan had Steven Smith, off a thin inside edge, well held by Prior off what became the last ball before tea.
Smith challenged the verdict but, in Australia’s latest unsuccessful brush with the Decision Review System (DRS), he was given out again.
There was yet more DRS controversy after tea when Ashton Agar was caught behind off Bresnan, with England immediately reviewing South African on-field umpire Marais Erasmus’s original not out decision.
The Hot Spot thermal imaging system did not appear to show a nick but third umpire Tony Hill was convinced there was a noise and a clear deflection and a stunned Agar, after talking to Erasmus, eventually walked off.