Play was brought to a halt, despite the protestations of Australia captain Michael Clarke, 30 minutes before the scheduled close of play on Sunday with the Aussies on 172-7, a lead of 331.
Clarke was looking to put the game beyond England before looking to bowl them out on the final day and keep the Ashes alive heading to Durham.
But the umpires took the players off for bad light and then the rain set in. Prospects for play are not good on Monday meaning England, already 2-0 in the series, are set to retain the Urn again.
Here's what the pick of the British and Australian newspapers had to say...
Richard Hinds - Herald Sun
Understandably, with England needing only a draw to retain the urn after winning the first two Tests, the Australians were given no assistance by the home team in attempting to extend play. In the latest example of new-fashioned "English fair play", England first dawdled through its overs and employed a series of stalling tactics, then did its best to cajole the umpires to allow it to leave the field for bad light, having refused to bowl spin at both ends. Under the current regulations, the umpires, not the batsmen, are the sole arbiters of bad light. But England captain Alastair Cook was so eager to get off the ground he almost ripped the light meters out of the umpires' pockets. As the English skipped back to the rooms, Clarke stayed behind to remonstrate with the umpires, but to no avail.
Chris Barrett - Sydney Morning Herald
An annoyed Michael Clarke has remonstrated with umpires after they ordered players off the ground for bad light on Sunday, but rain has also intervened to leave the tourists' Ashes comeback hopes in grave doubt. The Australian captain, who was unbeaten on 30 at the time, expressed his displeasure at the decision, but since amendments to the Laws of Cricket were made in 2010, umpires do not have to consult batsmen to stop play for bad light. The umpires' call became less relevant when the rain began, and Australia will feel desperately hard done by if the Ashes are conceded with a draw on Monday as a result of the weather. Clarke's team were far from across the line here, but their chances of securing the win they need to keep a series fightback alive, with two matches to play, have taken a serious hit thanks to the time lost on Sunday.
Paul Hayward - Daily Telegraph
For a series bedevilled by doubt about the decision review system - and the humans running it - a bizarre dispute over light was an apt way to bring the weekend to a close. In truth it was immaterial. While Australia's batsmen still fumed about the umpires' decision to force them off (Michael Clarke, the captain, was understandably desperate to continue), English drizzle scattered the 26,000 crowd and raised the grim probability that this series will be settled by a draw, after just 14 days.
Wayne Smith -The Australian
Just when Australia was manoeuvring into position for its final push towards the victory it needs to keep the quest for the Ashes alive, the weather - so benign when England was winning the first two Tests, easily at Lord's, by the skin of its teeth at Trent Bridge - has suddenly come over all English. Scudding showers, gloomy light, sloshy underfoot and generally miserable, and that was just today. It's forecast to be a whole lot worse on the scheduled fifth and final day of the Manchester Test. The England team, so shameless and calculating in its time-wasting tactics as it deliberately slowed Australia's charge towards a declaration, feels no compunction to actually be in the field when the Ashes are retained. They're content for it to happen while they have their feet up, playing cards in the shed.
Mike Selvey - Guardian
Ultimately the match will be in the hands of the weather. Australia will resume the final day on 172 for seven in their second innings, which gives them a lead of 331, England having not only avoided the follow-on but taken their own first innings on to 368. The margin should be more than adequate, one might think, on a fifth-day pitch, against a side who have no imperative to chase recklessly to ensure their own survival as a bottom line. A full day's play, and a declaration first thing from Michael Clarke, would see the prospect of an intriguing contest. The forecast, however, is not good, with heavy rain predicted throughout the morning; and, even if it cleared sufficiently, Australia might find themselves short of time.
Martin Samuel - Daily Mail
At some stage on Monday, in all likelihood, two men in white coats will look to the skies, look to each other, and with a resigned shrug, conclude this edition of one of sport's most intense rivalries. The Ashes will be won, not with a bang, but with a whimper, or a shower, or in the gathering gloom. That is what happened on Sunday, play curtailed for the last time at 4.25pm for bad light, becoming rain proper at 5pm. It will be a miserable, anti-climactic way to claim victory - like those seasons when a team win the Premier League without playing - but it will not be undeserved. England's cricket in the opening two Tests left Australia with no margin for error or misfortune. They earned the right to get lucky. It happens, sometimes.