The hosts' battling rearguard in the fourth Test ultimately fell short as Australia claimed a hard-fought 185-run victory at Old Trafford to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
As holders, that is enough for the tourists to retain the urn regardless of the result of the final Test in London.
Yet England will still aim to draw the series and there is incentive to do so with ICC World Test Championship points at stake.
They will need to find a way to get Steve Smith out, however. The prolific Australian batsman was not surprisingly named player of the match in Manchester after his scores of 211 and 82.
Tweet of the day
Former England batsman succinctly describes his feelings on the state of play in the Ashes.
Quote of the day
The England captain makes clear he intends to fight on as skipper despite seeing his hopes of reclaiming the Ashes dashed.
Australia may have secured the Ashes but they are not yet assured of their first series win in England since 2001. The Aussies have lost on their last four visits in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2015.
Australia's twin number ones
As well as trying to send Smith back to the pavilion, England will also have to contend with Australia's strong Pat Cummins-led pace attack at the Oval.
While Smith showed why he is the world's number one batsman at Old Trafford, Cummins similarly demonstrated why he is the top-ranked bowler.
He bowled 48 overs (24 in each innings) and returned match figures of seven for 103 (three for 60 and four for 43).
He is now the top wicket-taker in the series with 24, five ahead of England's Stuart Broad. With 671, Smith is top runscorer by some distance. Ben Stokes is next best with 354.
Paine: Partying will soon stop
If England hope Australia overdo the celebrations and turn up at the Oval bleary eyed, they may be disappointed.
Captain Tim Paine insists the tourists will arrive in top gear.
"We will have a good night to celebrate, as we should, but we will be back on deck next week," Paine said.
"Our goal was to come here and win it and we want to win this series 3-1 now."
England will may not wish to make too many changes for the final Test but may have to make decisions over some players soon after a disappointing series.
Jason Roy, particularly, has found the going tough in Test cricket after an outstanding World Cup.
He is not the only England player to struggle after the highs of the early summer but Australia have certainly exploited a weakness in his defence.
Roy has now been bowled four times in the series after twice having his stumps rearranged in Manchester.
England will need to check on the fitness of Stokes before the final Test.
The all-rounder suffered a shoulder injury that limited him to just 10.5 overs in the first innings at Old Trafford and he was not risked at all in the second, although he was fine to field and bat.
Over-ton and out?
After taking just two wickets in the match, Craig Overton must wait to see if he has done enough to retain his place but he can at least reflect on a fine batting effort.
On Sunday he faced 105 balls for his 21 as England tried to save the match, sharing in a stubborn ninth-wicket stand with Jack Leach that frustrated Australia for 64 minutes.