England scrambled home by two runs - the closest margin in Ashes history - as Australia, eight wickets down and still 106 runs behind at the start of play, staged an incredible fightback, after which Vaughan said: "If we had not got over the line and had gone two down in the series, I think the Ashes would have gone. I don't think we could have recovered from that against this Australian side."
Andrew Flintoff's all-round heroics won the match for England, the Lancastrian taking seven wickets and scoring 141 runs. It was the first time England had beaten Australia in a "live" Ashes contest since their victory at the same ground in 1997.
Brett Lee shared a partnership of 45 with Shane Warne for the ninth wicket and after Warne was out - treading on his stumps in an effort to keep out a ball from Flintoff - batted on bravely in spite of a painful blow to the hand to take his side to within one stroke of snatching victory.
The blond-haired fast bowler battled his way to 43 as he and Michael Kasprowicz put on 59 before the latter, who had been dropped at third man by Simon Jones, gloved a catch to the wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, sparking scenes of joyous celebration among the England players.
"I really didn't think it was going to get that close," Vaughan said. "But even when it was getting tight I felt we were going to create opportunities and I just kept telling everyone that to force one mistake was all that was needed. We had one opportunity with the hard chance at third man that went down but I always felt there would be another and that we'd be good enough to take it.
"To get home is tremendous and sets up the series nicely but what is important is to take this form into the next game at Old Trafford."
Vaughan singled out Flintoff for high praise. "I can't really recall a better all-round performance," he said. "To do it against Australia is a fantastic achievement. The last-wicket stand with Simon Jones on Saturday was the thing that swung the game."
The Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, admitted that he had been wrong to give England the opportunity to bat first. "I thought there would be more assistance for the seamers, so I guess I got that wrong," he said. "But we've gone close to pulling off an amazing victory. There are a lot of positives to take, almost as many for us as for England."
Ponting said that Glenn McGrath's fitness was improving after torn ankle ligaments ruled him out of this Test. "He is walking freely now and there is still hope he will be fit for the fourth Test at Trent Bridge."
Simon Jones was fined 20 per cent of his match fee for making an aggressive gesture after dismissing Matthew Hayden.Reuse content