England 158 (Pope 67, Root 23, Jansen 5-35, Rabada 4-81) and 130 for 1 (Crawley 69*, Lees 39) beat South Africa 118 (Jansen 30, Zondo 23, Robinson 5-49, Broad 4-41) and 169 (Elgar 36, Erwee 26, Stokes 3-39, Broad 3-45) by nine wickets
It was only a matter of time for both sides. But for England, it really was a matter of time. Needing just 33 runs for victory over South Africa and a 2-1 series triumph, they had to do it in 64 balls to make this third and final Test at The Oval the shortest since 1912.
As it happened, they took 5.3 overs - 28 minutes in all - to achieve the quirky milestone in an extraordinary match, which was only ever going to last three days in total after rain forced play to be abandoned on Thursday without a ball being bowled and Friday's day of respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Zak Crawley picked up where he had left off, easing his way to an unbeaten 69 to lead England to a nine-wicket win.
Alex Lees had been dropped on the first ball of England's fourth-innings pursuit of 130 and again Kagiso Rabada saw him put down on the third ball of the last day, a thick outside edge sliding through the gloves of Kyle Verreynne behind the stumps as the keeper moved to his left.
Lees also evaded Keegan Petersen's hand, thrust up somewhat tardily at third slip as he appeared to lose sight of the ball at the crucial moment, for four runs off Marco Jansen next over.
But Rabada got what was very much a consolation wicket a short time later with a delivery that tailed in and rapped Lees on the thigh, barely drawing an appeal but prompting an understated call for the DRS, which showed the ball to be hitting the stumps.
When Ollie Pope, whose first-innings 67 made him the only other player besides Crawley to pass fifty in the match, arrived at the crease England needed just 22 runs more.
Pope attempted a reverse sweep off Jansen with just five runs needed and was hit on the chin, prompting further delay to the inevitable as he underwent concussion checks.
Fittingly, given his rapid passage to a half-century the previous evening - his first time past fifty since scoring a century against West Indies in March, Crawley brought up the winning runs, steering Jansen to the boundary in front of square on the off side.
Crawley's lean record this summer had raised questions over his place in a side that has re-invented itself as ultra-assertive. In cruising to a 36-ball fifty on Sunday, he looked more in the mould, and he carried on that way, confidently clipping Rabada to fine leg for a single on Monday's first ball as England resumed on 97 without loss, Crawley with 57 and Lees on 32, after bad light stopped play the previous evening.
His knock had been almost flawless but for being dropped on 51 when he fired the ball hard at midwicket late on Sunday, so hard that it rocketed through Ryan Rickelton's hands, onto his chest and to the ground.
Crawley faced 57 balls for his knock, but it was Ollie Robinson who was Player of the Match for his 5 for 49 which formed the basis of South Africa's first-innings collapse to be all out for 118.
Robinson finished with seven wickets for the match as did Stuart Broad, who took 4 for 41 in South Africa's first innings and a crucial 3 for 45 in their second amid a prolonged display of swing bowling with fellow veteran James Anderson which put England back on top after the tourists had won the second morning.
South Africa had contained England's first-innings lead to just 40 runs, thanks largely to Jansen's maiden Test five-for, then comfortably moved back into the lead through Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee.
But Broad and Anderson got to work and then Ben Stokes produced a gutsy spell while continuing to battle a long-term knee problem to net three South Africa wickets and, with Robinson's help, restrict them to 169 in the second innings.
In a match that flip-flopped as part of a series that flip-flopped - the sides split the first two Tests which were each decided by an innings - England looked classier as South Africa's batting line-up struggled for runs, despite making wholesale changes ahead of the final game.
"A good first innings helped us at Lord's, first-innings runs are so big in the UK, and we've failed in that department," Elgar, the South Africa captain, told Sky Sports. "I've got to give our bowlers credit, they ran in and did all that was asked of them, but it all boils down to our batting."
Rabada was named South Africa's Player of the Series for his 14 wickets at 23.35, while Stokes claimed the honour for England as the second-highest run-scorer behind Pope with 149 runs plus his ten wickets at 15.70. Jonny Bairstow, forced out of the third Test by a freak golf accident, was named Player of the Summer.
Stokes was full of praise for England's top-order of Crawley, Lees and Pope, as well as Broad and Anderson.
"Important to allow them enough time," Stokes said before accepting the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy in a subdued celebration out of respect for the nation's period of mourning for the Queen, who died on Thursday.
"The way Popey's come out and played, he's shown what he's capable of, and Zak and Leesy, opening the batting in England is very hard. Don't underestimate how they set the tone.
"It's phenomenal to have two of the great seam bowlers in your team, two sporting greats, very blessed. They are a huge credit to themselves and this game, and a lot of young players who want to be fast bowlers look up to them."