England crashed to earth with a 78-run defeat in the fourth NatWest Series match against Australia at The Oval.
All the talk before today's fixture surrounded England's bid for an unprecedented 5-0 one-day international whitewash of their Ashes rivals.
But after Ryan Harris (five for 32) had helped to bowl them out for 212 in only 42.4 overs in reply to 290 for five - despite an admirable maiden half-century at this level for Mike Yardy (57) - the margin of defeat made a mockery of those ambitions.
The series, of course, is already England's.
But Australia, for whom Michael Clarke (99 not out) and Ricky Ponting shared a third-wicket stand of 155, would be level at 2-2 had they managed to take one more wicket at Old Trafford on Sunday.
England were rarely in with a chance at The Oval once Harris had got rid of Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen in the space of six balls.
Andrew Strauss soon fell to Shaun Tait and after leg-spinner Steven Smith got Paul Collingwood and Harris returned to see off Eoin Morgan, England were out of specialist batsmen.
Harris came back again to have Tim Bresnan caught in the deep and with the run rate spiralling to more than 10 an over from diminished resources, England's late charge was at best always going to be merely a matter of respectability retained.
Yardy stayed long enough in his 58-ball 50, before holing out at mid-on off Doug Bollinger, to top score in an innings which ended with a whimper.
Kieswetter's attacking instincts were blunted by Australia before he drove at a length ball which snaked between bat and pad to knock over off-stump.
Pietersen, without an ODI century in 15 innings since late 2008, began ominously by crashing the third and fourth balls he faced for boundaries past extra-cover and mid-on off Bollinger.
But he stepped across his stumps and missed a Harris delivery, departing with misplaced incredulity at umpire Richard Kettleborough's correct lbw decision.
Tait got Strauss to follow and edge behind some telling away movement off the pitch from round the wicket, before Collingwood went unluckily lbw to a Smith leg-break which barely pitched on off-stump and was only going one way.
England's successful recent gameplan has often revolved around the apparent infallibility of Morgan in a run chase.
Again he hinted at a revival from an unpromising position, targeting James Hopes' medium pace for three leg-side sixes and overseeing a 50-run stand with Yardy.
But Morgan edged a drive behind off the bowling of Harris and Luke Wright could make no impact before Smith bowled him round his legs.
The game was surely already up at 151 for six in the 32nd over and despite Yardy and Bresnan's best efforts, England's hopes of establishing an ODI record of nine successive victories fell flat.
Clarke had earlier collected seven fours from 106 balls without taking undue risk.
Bresnan's first wicket of the series stopped Australia posting a fourth consecutive half-century opening stand, the Yorkshire seamer disturbing the Tim Paine-Shane Watson alliance which has served the tourists well in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
After Australia had been put in on an initially cloudy afternoon, Paine was the man to go to a shot he will want to forget and which rather defied description, but ended with a tame catch at cover from a leg-stump delivery.
The Australia wicketkeeper had been unable to gather any momentum against the new ball, but Watson, on the back of 50s at Old Trafford and the SWALEC Stadium, was soon demonstrating he remains in fine form.
It was all the more disappointing therefore when he slog-swept Graeme Swann unerringly into the hands of deep midwicket.
Ponting made it abundantly clear from the non-striker's end what he thought of Watson's aberration, staring him out and then dropping his bat and gloves to the floor as the opener trudged from the middle.
Ponting himself had one moment of fortune, on only four, when he mis-pulled Broad but uncannily evaded the leg-side ring for a lucky single.
Otherwise, the Australia captain was flawless, and Clarke likewise, apart from spearing an aerial cover-drive off Swann straight through the hands of James Anderson to survive a half-chance on five.
Ponting, short of runs in his previous three innings, announced himself by picking Bresnan off for two leg-side fours and then a drive wide of mid-off.
He and Clarke barely put a foot wrong for the next hour and a half until Ponting, having hit 10 fours from 93 balls, fell short of his 30th ODI hundred.
He did have the consolation of passing another landmark, becoming only the third batsman in history to top 13,000 runs in this format in the course of an innings which ended when he chipped Anderson to cover from the first ball of the batting powerplay.
Australia mopped up a routine 77 from the last 10 overs but with Smith clubbing late runs, Clarke was unable to regain the strike often enough and was left agonisingly shy of his fifth ODI hundred and his first against England.
In the bigger picture, though, he had done plenty to help restore Australian pride.Reuse content