Chasing a target of 170, the hosts got the 56 runs they required in little more than an hour, with David Warner 87 not out and debutant Cameron Bancroft unbeaten on 82.
On just two previous occasions have England lost the first Test in Australia and gone on to win the Ashes, but Joe Root’s men only need a draw to retain the urn.
The next Test, a day-nighter in Adelaide, begins on Saturday, so the tourists will have to re-group quickly both on and off the field.
News of an investigation into an alleged headbutt by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow on Australia’s Cameron Bancroft in a Perth bar four weeks ago emerged on Sunday.
Both men were on the field throughout Monday’s play and shook hands at the conclusion of the match.
It was Bancroft who offered the only semblance of a chance, edging Jake Ball past lone slip Alastair Cook when on 60.
He hit the winning runs off Chris Woakes as Australia preserved their 29-year unbeaten record at the Gabba on the third anniversary of the death of Phillip Hughes.
This was England’s sixth successive Test defeat in Australia following a 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14.
On that occasion they were annihilated but this match, despite the margin of victory, was even for the majority of the contest and offers some suggestion the series could be keenly fought.
Ultimately, it was decided by some key moments going the way of the home side, partly through Australian excellence and partly through England mistakes.
On the first day, with England 127-1, James Vince was run out for 83 by a brilliant direct hit from Nathan Lyon.
Vince was one of seven England batsmen to reach 38, but his was the tourists’ highest score of the match.
In contrast, Australia captain Steve Smith ground out an unbeaten 141 to rescue his side from 70-4 and 209-7, the latter when England were strangely reluctant to employ all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson.
Australia’s final three wickets ultimately added 119 runs, whereas in the first innings England’s last five managed 56 and in their second the last four just 10.
And though the home side coasted the chase, by the time Warner and Bancroft negotiated the new ball, the contest was as good as over. (Courtesy BBC)