Rain halted Sri Lanka's charge to victory on the last day of the final Test at Galle on Saturday but England have still lost the series.
After making their lowest ever total in Asia in the first innings of the must-win match, rain came to England's rescue following-on from 418 runs behind.
Despite a battling century from opener Alastair Cook on the final day a middle order collapse meant England were forced to cling on at 251-6 when rain stopped play for the second time just after tea.
Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan picked up three wickets and debutant left-arm seamer Chanaka Welegedara took two wickets as England's specialist batsmen toppled one by one.
Only Matt Prior (19 not out) and Ryan Sidebottom (0 not out) remained at the end with Michael Vaughan's side fortunate to salvage a draw in the end.
England had looked set for a draw with nine wickets still intact at the start of the day and opener Cook survived an early scare when wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene inexplicably put down a regulation catch behind the stumps in the second over.
Cook went on to forge half-century partnerships with Ian Bell and then Kevin Pietersen on his way to scoring England's first century of the series.
Bell (34) had looked in good touch before getting bowled playing off the back foot to an off-spinner from Murali that just did not bounce, bringing Pietersen (30) to the wicket in the ninth over of the day.
The swashbuckling Hampshire batsman did not have the patience to take England to lunch though as he holed out to Mahela Jayawardene at short midwicket off the bowling of Murali.
That wicket marked the start of a middle order collapse as the world's most successful Test bowler produced a three-wicket maiden.
Paul Collingwood quickly followed Pietersen back to the pavilion getting stumped off his second delivery and then a nervous Ravi Bopara picked up a pair to compound England's problems.
The young all-rounder looked to guide the ball down to third man, but skipper Jayawardene fielded superbly at first slip to run the Essex player out for a golden duck after he had edged out of the crease looking for a single.
England were in turmoil on 202-5 at lunch, but despite heavy rain prompting an early tea there was still time for Cook to feather a thin edge behind for Jayawardene to atone for his earlier error.
The draw is scant consolation for England though, who slide from second to fifth in the Test rankings.