Conditions worsened throughout the day and, with rain pelting down under increasingly dark skies, the umpires finally abandoned play for the day at 4.06pm local time (1506GMT) with only a handful of hardy spectators, some sheltering under umbrellas, still in the ground.
The bad weather was especially frustrating for Australia, who were seeking a first win in nine Tests and trying to avoid their first Ashes series without a Test victory since 1977.
England, who at 3-0 up had already won the five-match series and retained the Ashes, were 246 for four at stumps on the third day in reply to Australia’s first innings 492 for nine declared,
That left England 245 runs behind and still requiring a further 46 runs to avoid the follow-on.
Ian Bell, who came into this match having scored exactly 500 runs in the series with three hundreds, was 29 not out and Test debutant Chris Woakes unbeaten on 15.
The way England batted on Friday, scoring at barely two runs per an over, suggested they were in no mood to give arch-rivals Australia a sniff of victory.
Australia now face the improbable task of having to take 16 wickets for victory on Sunday’s final day — if the weather allows.
However, England did take nine Australia wickets in under a session as they won the fourth Test in Durham by 74 runs with more than a day to spare.