In a Test which had seen Australia on top almost all the way, the hosts were under considerable pressure when reduced to 37 for three while needing to bat out the day.
But the weather then intervened to see England end the day with a 2-0 series lead heading to Durham for the fourth Test on Friday.
"Many times I have cursed the rain in Manchester, but today I would take it home to meet my grandma and marry it," England spinner Graeme Swann tweeted, while former captain Michael Vaughan posted a picture of the famous urn and the caption "RAINTAINED".
If a mid-afternoon abandonment was not the most dramatic way to retain the urn, it did not dampen celebrations in the England dressing room.
"We have retained the Ashes and it feels magnificent!!!" Stuart Broad tweeted.
Kevin Pietersen, whose first-innings century was key to his side avoiding defeat and moved him past Graham Gooch as England's all-time leading run-scorer in internationals, added: "Ashes retained.. Wow! What a feeling.. Outstanding by this team to do it in 3 Tests..
"And.. Thank you for being so nice during this Test! It was an incredibly proud moment when I found out about the record.. More runs to come!"
Prime Minister David Cameron joined in too.
"And to think some people criticise the British weather," he tweeted. "Congratulations to our cricketers on retaining the #Ashes."
- Sports & Recreation
- Graeme Swann
- Kevin Pietersen