Mercedes let a victory slip through their fingers by delaying a second pit stop and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took his first victory for more than five years.
Hamilton’s title rival and Raikkonen’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel looked to have handed Hamilton the title early on when he spun battling with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also beat Hamilton, who will have to wait until the race in Mexico next weekend to have another chance of clinching the title.
He leaves Austin, Texas, with a 70-point lead over Vettel, who eventually finished fourth, with 75 available over the remaining three grands prix.
In a tense finish, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Hamilton were nose to tail and the Mercedes driver failed in his one opportunity to pass the Dutchman with three laps to go.
As it happened, even doing that would not have been enough to clinch the title for Hamilton, as Vettel passed the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas for fourth place on the penultimate lap.