Michael Vaughan paid tribute to the overall team effort from England's cricketers as they provided a thrilling and emphatic conclusion to the Oval Test match.
Bookmakers at one point on the first day rated England's chances of winning the match at 40/1, a fact not lost on captain Vaughan.
"Throughout my short career to date this is my best Test victory," he said.
"[South Africa] were 362-4 after the first day on a good batting pitch and to show the character we did and come back was a fantastic team effort.
"Steve Harmison was fantastic and Martin Bicknell on his home ground was exceptional."
Vaughan, whose batting form tailed off after he was appointed captain from the second match of the five-Test series, also applauded opposite number Graeme Smith.
"I would like to thank Graeme and his team for the way they have played their cricket all summer," he said.
"It's been a fantastic summer for cricket and to level it on the good Oval wicket was a fantastic effort by my team.
"Obviously now we will have a bit of a break and prepare for the winter tours."
Marcus Trescothick was voted man of the match after he became the first man since Sir Don Bradman to follow up a double-century in an Oval Test with a fifty.
The retiring Stewart is lifted high by Harmison and Flintoff
Trescothick, after scores of 219 and 69 not out, said: "It's just been a great gig and a great game of cricket for all of us.
"I've worked hard on my game throughout the whole series. I've had some tough wickets to bat on and things haven't always gone my way.
"This time I got a bit of luck along the way - that's the way it goes."
Alec Stewart was thrilled to retire from Test cricket with a final England win under his belt.
He said he was looking forward to getting his golf clubs out and pulling on his Chelsea shirt but he had time to praise South African skipper Smith.
"He is the most impressive 22-year-old I have seen in cricket," said Stewart.
"I am sure he will guide his team to more success in the future."