Australia completed their highest ever run chase, meaning Jonathan Trott's career-best 137 proved to be in vain, as England suffered a morale-sapping two-wicket defeat in the sixth one-day international in Sydney.
Trott struck his second century of the series as England cast aside their recent batting woes to post 333 for six.
But it was not enough as Australia, who were inspire by a 70-ball 82 from under-fire acting skipper Michael Clarke, completed a record chase on their home soil with four balls to spare.
It was a chastening defeat for England in a series that goes from bad to worse, as they fell 5-1 behind and also suffered a further injury to their depleted squad.
Paul Collingwood suffered a back spasm attempting a heave from the final ball of the innings, and did not bowl in Australia's chase - which proved crucial as Trott and Kevin Pietersen conceded 72 as they shared the fifth bowler's role.
The England management also confirmed that quicks Ajmal Shahzad (hamstring) and Chris Tremlett (side) would fly home tomorrow and join Graeme Swann (back/knee) and Tim Bresnan (calf) in leaving the tour early.
It leaves England short-handed ahead of the final match in Perth on Sunday, although Liam Plunkett has been flown from the England Lions squad in the Caribbean to join the team in Western Australia.
Australia made an all-action start to their chase, mainly thanks to Shane Watson, who hit eight fours in a 72-run stand with Brad Haddin from the opening 48 balls.
James Anderson (one for 91), who conceded the second worst figures by an England bowler, had cost 38 before he claimed the initial breakthrough of Haddin (20) from the final ball of his fourth over - Trott holding a superb diving catch.
Watson's looming danger was ended when Andrew Strauss took a diving catch at mid-wicket off Michael Yardy, after he had belted 51 off 34 balls.
Australia stayed above the rate though after they sent in pinch-hitter Mitchell Johnson, who lifted Pietersen over the mid-wicket fence in a stand of 79 in 71 balls with Callum Ferguson.
England were gifted an important breakthrough, though, when a mix-up saw Ferguson (46) run out when Johnson failed to respond to a call for a quick single.
Clarke was then cheered to the crease by his home-town crowd, after the under-fire batsman was booed in Brisbane on Sunday, with exactly half the runs still required from 26 overs.
He lost Johnson when he was stumped off Pietersen, who briefly left the field after rolling his ankle - while Steven Finn had Cameron White (20) caught at deep square by Eoin Morgan.
Clarke was not to be denied his chance to make the headlines for the right reasons following a summer when he has become the focus of criticism in Australia, and he combined in a 90-run stand with David Hussey to leave his side needing a run a ball from the last three overs.
England fought back though with Finn having Hussey (38) caught behind before Steve Smith saw his runner Haddin caught short before he had scored.
In the penultimate over from Finn, Trott spilled a catch to remove Clarke, but he then made the throw from the deep to run him out for 82 from 70 balls.
That left his side needing six from the last over, delivered by Chris Woakes in his third ODI, but he bowled a wide before a single from Brett Lee and an inside-edged four from John Hastings saw Australia home.
Earlier, Strauss looked a man on a mission, after blaming the batsmen for having already lost the series, as he set about leading from the front after winning the toss and electing to bat on a hot day.
While he lost Matt Prior (18) when he was bowled off his pad in Johnson's opening over, Strauss targeted the erratic left-armer with a couple of swipes in the bowling powerplay.
He was otherwise content, with Trott as a willing partner, to knuckle down to the spade work to set a platform for an impressive total but after adding 63 without alarm he drove Steve Smith to mid-wicket, where David Hussey took a sharp catch low to his left.
The skipper had, however, set a workmanlike tone for the start of the innings and Trott seamlessly fell into the role as he passed his 50 from 61 balls with just a single boundary.
Trott added 69 for the third wicket with Pietersen, who had been selective with his strokeplay until he recklessly drove the expensive Brett Lee's first ball of the batting powerplay, taken early in the 34th over, to Smith at mid-on.
Trott stepped up his attack in the powerplay, with Ian Bell also finding his range quickly, as they took 43 from the five overs.
The right-hander, who successfully reviewed an lbw decision on 82, then reached his third one-day century - and his fourth of a rich tour with the bat - when he drove his 100th ball to deep cover for a single.
Trott's long innings started to take a toll though as he called for a runner, although it did not inhibit his strokeplay as he added 104 in 70 balls with Bell, who scored 45 in 32 balls before driving Shaun Tait to Clarke at mid-off.
Eoin Morgan chipped in with 21 off 13 balls before Trott's superb innings, the seventh-highest score by an England batsman and which came from 126 balls, was ended from the penultimate ball when he top-edged a pull off Tait which the quick held.