England were denied the chance to make Ashes history - and complete one of the most fearless chases in living memory - when the umpires took the sides off for bad light with the game minutes away from a thrilling climax.
The home side, looking to turn their 3-0 series win into a dream 4-0 success over the Australians, required 21 in 24 balls when Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena produced the dreaded light meters and signalled the end of proceedings.
In doing so, the officials surely followed procedure to the letter but to deny a full house a natural conclusion to an unforgettable day of Test cricket at the Kia Oval felt like a sport fatally hamstrung by its own laws.
That certainly seemed to be the view of the supporters, who roundly booed the decision - an ill-fitting end to a triumphant series win for Alastair Cook's side.
That England were within touching distance of the winning line was only made possible in the first place by a perfect storm of events, including a gambler's declaration by Australia captain Michael Clarke and a quite wonderful knock of 62 in 55 balls from a bombastic Kevin Pietersen.
Clarke's second declaration of the match, at 111 for six, left England a tempting but unlikely 227 in 44 overs after tea.
They ticked along nicely early in the innings but really gained traction towards that mark when Pietersen was at the crease, thrashing 10 boundaries and bringing a vocal crowd to the boil.
Jonathan Trott also impressed with a fluent 59 and at the end the incoming Matt Prior and debutant Chris Woakes required less than a run a ball before being ordered from the pitch.
By that point Clarke had long since given up on the adventurous spirit that had got everyone to this point, constantly eating up time and complaining to the umpires about the admittedly dreadful light.
England were doing their best to give the opposite impression, but the decision to go off for light no longer rests with the batting side.