Grounds for hope in Melbourne
England can count on significant travelling support in Melbourne and Andrew Strauss' men will be further boosted by England's reasonable record at the vast MCG.
In 53 Ashes Tests dating back to 1877, the tourists have won 19 compared to 26 Australia victories while seven matches have ended in a draw. There was also one abandoned Test in 1970-71.
In their last seven outings, England have triumphed three times, twice in thrilling style and once by an innings when the tourists last won the Ashes Down Under.
The tourists' three-run win in 1982, which mirrored Edgbaston in 2005, was one of the great Ashes Tests.
England were inserted and subsequestly bowled out for 284 with Chris Tavare's 89 and 83 from Allan Lamb the mainstay of the total.
In reply Australia edged into a three-run lead thanks to half-centuries from Kim Hughes, David Hookes and Rodney Marsh. Bob Willis and Geoff Miller finished with three wickets apiece.
Graeme Fowler hit 65 when England batted again but they needed contributions from Ian Botham, Derek Pringle and Bob Taylor to reach 294.
Chasing 292 to win, the hosts looked in charge as they reached 171 for three thanks to a century stand from Hughes and Hookes.
But the game turned once Hughes edged Miller behind as Australia collapsed, losing six wickets for just 47 runs with Norman Cowans the chief destroyer.
That flurry of wickets left them 218 for nine, still 74 adrift with last pair Allan Border and Jeff Thomson charged with stealing an unlikely win.
They got close, very close, until a final piece of drama sealed it.
Thomson, who had defied England for more than two hours, nicked Botham to second slip where Tavare fumbled before Miller, stationed at first slip, swooped to scoop the ball up.
England's last win in Melbourne came 12 years ago when Dean Headley bowled Alec Stewart's side to a thrilling 12-run victory.
Australia, 2-0 up in the series, were coasting in pursuit of 175 and, when the Waugh brothers took the score to 130 for three, there was seemingly only one winner.
Step forward Headley, who took 5-9 in six overs, before Darren Gough dismissed Stuart MacGill and Glenn McGrath in the space of three balls to spark joyous scenes as the shadows crept across the outfield.
England-Australia Melbourne records
England wins: 19
Australia wins: 26
England - highest total: 589; lowest total: 61
Australia - highest total: 604; lowest total 104:
1877: Australia won by 45 runs
1877: England won by four wickets
1879: Australia won by 10 wickets
1882: Australia won by nine wickets
1883: England won by an innings and 27 runs
1885: England won by 10 wickets
1885: England won by an innings and 98 runs
1892: Australia won by 54 runs
1894: England won by 94 runs
1895: England won by six wickets
1898: Australia won by an innings and 55 runs
1898: Australia won by eight wickets
1902: Australia won by 229 runs
1902: Australia won by 32 runs
1904: England won by 185 runs
1904: Australia won by 218 runs
1908: England won by one wicket
1908: Australia won by 308 runs
1911: England won by eight wickets
1912: England won by an innings and 225 runs
1920: Australia won by an innings and 91 runs
1921: Australia won by eight wickets
1925: Australia won by 81 runs
1925: England won by an innings and 29 runs
1928: England won by three wickets
1929: Australia won by five wickets
1932: Australia won by 111 runs
1937: Australia won by 365 runs
1937: Australia won by an innings and 200 runs
1950: Australia won by 28 runs
1951: England won by eight wickets
1954: England won by 128 runs
1958: Australia won by eight wickets
1959: Australia won by nine wickets
1962: England won by seven wickets
1975: England won by an innings and four runs
1977: Australia won by 45 runs
1978: Australia won by 103 runs
1980: Australia won by eight wickets
1982: England won by three runs
1986: England won by an innings and 14 runs
1990: Australia won by eight wickets
1994: Australia won by 295 runs
1998: England won by 12 runs
2002: Australia won by five wickets
2006: Australia won by an innings and 99 runs