Sydney:England were three wickets away from an emphatic 3-1 series victory after more superlative all-round cricket left Australia in tatters on 7 for 213, still 151 runs short of making the visitors bat again. James Anderson produced an outstanding display of reverse swing, and Chris Tremlett battered the batsmen with hostile pace, to follow up Matt Prior's first Ashes hundred which led England to their highest total down under.
England claimed the extra half an hour to try and complete victory after Tremlett removed Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson in consecutive balls amid a heady atmosphere as the travelling fans, who outnumbered the locals, savoured every moment. However, Steve Smith and Peter Siddle managed to see out the eight further overs to keep England waiting overnight to celebrate.
Prior added 102 for the eighth wicket with Tim Bresnan (35) to extend the advantage to mammoth proportions before the innings finally ended for 644 shortly after lunch. Any hope of Australia levelling the Ashes had long since disappeared underneath the deluge of runs and it was down to the batsmen to see how deep they could dig. Shane Watson started brightly before a horrendous run out, then England's skills with the old ball - Swann's probing spin and Anderson's masterful control of swing - meant the pressure was never released.
Anderson dispatched Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke in a high-class six-over spell, while Bresnan was also a significant threat with the older ball. Australia's remote chance of salvaging pride disappeared when Mike Hussey carved Bresnan to point six overs before the close. Tremlett's double blast momentarily brought the prospect of a swift finish when he bounced out Haddin and clattered Johnson's off stump.
Watson played his shots at the start of innings, collecting seven boundaries with a combination of thumping pulls and drives, but for the third time in the series he was involved in a horrid mix-up and this time he was the one to depart. Phil Hughes turned the ball into midwicket where two runs were there for the taking, but he ambled the first so when Watson turned and sprinted back for the second Hughes hadn't moved. Watson soon ended up at the same end while Kevin Pietersen's throw reached Prior.
Hughes, rattled by the incident, didn't last much longer when he edged a good ball from Bresnan that seamed away a touch. Bresnan was again superb in tying down the batsmen and alongside Swann dried up the scoring after the early flurry of boundaries.
Khawaja produced another composed display until, the ball after pulling Anderson for four, he followed one that reversed away from him and edged to the wicketkeeper. By then Anderson was making the ball do exactly what he wanted and gave Clarke a thorough examination to match that of Simon Jones at Old Trafford during the 2005 Ashes.
It took all of Clarke's skill to survive as long as he did but eventually he pushed at one that moved away and even before Prior took the catch he was cursing himself. For a moment Anderson thought he had a third when Hussey drove at a full delivery, however the noise was bat clipping ground and Andrew Strauss correctly opted not to review.
Swann also played his part in maintaining the pressure and was denied a wicket he deserved when Ian Bell dropped a low chance at short cover offered by Haddin. It's a sign of how well England have operated as a unit that Swann, who was expected to be a major wicket-taker here, has just one to his name yet the team are so dominant.
As has been the case for the majority of the series, England's day couldn't have gone much more to plan. Prior resumed on 54 and reached his hundred, the fourth of his career, with an expansive cover drive off Michael Beer and coming off 109 balls it was England's fastest Ashes ton since Ian Botham at Headingley in 1981.
He has always been one of the finest off-side drivers in the England team and despite defensive fields had few problems picking the gaps. He also showed a deftness of touch to milk the spinners, then when the third new ball was taken made the most of the extra pace. As the runs piled up, England passed 500 for the fourth time in series, another new record against Australia.
Bresnan played the ideal support role and having taken 61 balls to reach double figures began to unleash some powerful strokes of his own. This situation was far from the most challenging he'll face but he showed a good range of strokes and a solid defence before edging Johnson to second slip. Swann played with the freedom the situation afforded him and Prior eventually fell as he slashed at Ben Hilfenhaus, although the TV umpire checked for a no-ball and it was only fractionally in the bowler's favour.
Swann proceeded to take 17 off five balls against Johnson and his last four-over spell cost 48 runs. It's a long time since Australia have been dominated so extensively in a five-match series on home soil and on Friday the final nails will be hammered in.