Australia duly delivered a fairytale finish for captain Darren Lockyer as England's wait for a series victory over the old enemy continued.
Lockyer brought his stellar career to a fitting finale by scoring the game's last try and lifting the Gillette Four Nations trophy after a dominant performance by the Kangaroos in tonight's final in front of a capacity crowd of 34,174 at Elland Road.
It was the tourists' sixth successive win over their hosts at Elland Road and reminiscent of their 46-16 triumph in 2009 when they finished with a flourish to gain a flattering margin of victory.
This time the scoreline was a true reflection of the Kangaroos' superiority, which now stretches back 39 years to Great Britain's 1972 World Cup triumph.
England had raised hopes and expectations during an impressive round-robin campaign but, yet again, when it came to the crunch they were found wanting.
They were level at 8-8 after 55 minutes thanks largely to a superb effort from their experienced forwards and big defensive stints from centres Jack Reed and Kirk Yeaman, but the Aussies had seen three tries disallowed by video referee Ian Smith by then and they rammed home their advantage with four tries in the last 24 minutes.
Even with a half-fit Johnathan Thurston, whose left knee clearly reduced his effectiveness, the Kangaroos had the edge in most departments, with Lockyer pulling most of the strings.
England's forwards, with Adrian Morley making a record 50th international appearance, battled manfully but Steve McNamara's men could not scale the heights of their previous performances, with half-backs Kevin Sinfield and Rangi Chase struggling to impose themselves.
They spent the first half-hour dousing the flames as the Kangaroos started like a house on fire.
Second rower Sam Thaiday gave them a fourth-minute lead after winger Jharal Yow Yeh palmed the ball back from Thurston's high kick to his centre partner Chris Lawrence.
Thurston's touchline conversion made it 6-0 and Australia had two further tries disallowed as England struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Powerful winger Akuila Uate was denied by one of a series of crucial tackles by Reed and video referee Smith also disallowed a touchdown from Lawrence after Sam Tomkins failed to deal with Lockyer's high kick.
Tomkins, so impressive on his two previous performances, looked frail under the high ball and was deprived of the space he enjoyed seven days earlier against the Kiwis to make inroads into the Aussies' defence.
The introduction from the bench of second rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan added some pep into England's attack and it was his half-break that set up the position for their equalising try.
England would have been forgiven had they opted to take the two points when handed a penalty in front of the posts but their bold decision to run the ball paid off when Ryan Hall took Sinfield's long pass to get over at the corner.
Slow-motion replays indicated the Leeds winger lost control of the ball in the act of touching down but the video referee clearly felt that was a direct result of Thurston's swinging arm around his head and consequently awarded a penalty try.
Sinfield's goal from in front of the posts levelled matters but Thurston edged his side back in front with a penalty on the stroke of half-time
Their try breathed new life into England and they enjoyed their best spell of the match early in the second half and Sinfield brought his side level for a second time with a penalty, but again it was shortlived after Briscoe knocked on near his own line to put his side under pressure.
England enjoyed another let-off when Yow Yeh found himself in space but hesitated within sight of the corner and was bundled into touch.
However, he made no mistake two minutes later when Boyd's cut-out pass gave the Brisbane winger even more space to score Australia's second try and England had barely recovered from that blow when the impressive Paul Gallen broke through their first line of defence to get Thurston over.
The half-back added both conversions to make it 20-8 and, although Reed almost got Gareth Ellis over after profiting from a knock-on by Uate, the game had gone.
Thurston combined with Anthony Watmough to get Greg Inglis striding over for a try and in the final minute Lockyer completed the script when he successfully chase his own grubber kick to touch down.
With five goals from as many attempts, man of the match Thurston gave way to Lockyer for the final kick at goal. but the great man demonstrated he is human after all by slicking the conversion attempt.