When England finally reclaimed the tiny urn in 2005 it was a release so cathartic that it elevated the series to new heights in the UK; and made Australia all the more determined to reclaim the prize, which they did emphatically in 2007.
However, recent contests have felt less competitive.
As the Australians struggled to rebuild, and England became ever more proficient and professional, it felt as though this year's series might lack a little of the appeal of recent years.
By Sunday at Trent Bridge, those fears had been dispelled so emphatically that the very idea of a lacklustre Ashes seemed laughable.
This was, it was unanimously agreed, one of the best ever Ashes Tests, and quite possibly one of the best ever Test matches.
New rivalries, fresh controversies and innumerable talking points conspired to ensure that the second Test will be the most hotly anticipated for years.
The fact that much of the UK is currently basking in a heatwave only added to the sense of enjoyment from the home fans, but even in defeat the Australians could draw succour from the fact that their team can clearly make a decent fist of winning the series.
Clarke's dignified speech as he congratulated England spoke of a man well aware he had been part of something special. And best of all, this is just the beginning of back-to-back series in 2013.
Test cricket is still uniquely compelling
By the end of Wednesday those fans with tickets for Saturday's action were justifiably pondering other plans.
Batsman after batsman failed to rein in his desire to play at every delivery, with wickets lost due primarily to poor decision making.
Bowling, too, was erratic -- the Australians giving away 21 runs to the extras column.
Even the idea that the match could be over before Friday was being seriously discussed, and inevitably that discussion turned to the format of Test cricket.
Batsmen, it was agreed, were too used to the speed of Twenty20 and 50-over games; skills that fed a long innings, such as the ability to safely leave a ball, had been lost in the pressure to score quickly.
Punters preferred the quick fix entertainment of shorter forms of the game and this was the result.
As the Test entered the afternoon session on the fifth day, however, it became clear that this type of cricket still offers something unique.
This was like choosing an Emmy award winning DVD box set over a summer sci-fi blockbuster.
As the hours and days rolled by, nuance, sub-plots, character development and twists were revealed that would be impossible in the frenetic environment of limited overs cricket.
Trent Bridge was by turns feather bed and cauldron for the protagonists as the game's story evolved; nails were shorn to their stumps, eyes raised plaintively to the heavens by players and fans alike, cries of anguish were matched by sighs of relief and gasps of wonderment, eyes squinted intently at the square throughout.
This utterly enthralling contest was the perfect reminder of what Test cricket can offer.