Australia moved within 201 runs of victory in the fourth Ashes test with all 10 wickets in hand after routing England's second innings for 179 to wrest back the momentum on a roller-coaster fourth day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.
Australia offspinner Nathan Lyon celebrated his 100th test wicket in a 5-50 haul as the tourists lost their last five wickets for six runs, squandering a hard-fought advantage their bowlers had secured in the morning.
Chris Rogers was on 18 with fellow opener David Warner on 12 as Australia, chasing 231 for victory, reached 30 for no loss at the close of a blustery day's play in front of a crowd of more than 63,000.
"To have that result in the second innings for Australia is fantastic to turn the game around," Lyon told reporters.
"We didn't expect that, but we knew if we bowled in partnerships and keep on improving as a bowling unit then we knew that we could possibly crack open the game.
"Come tomorrow Australia has to be really patient with our batting and it's going to be a massive challenge."
Though victory and a 4-0 lead in the five-test series would seem Australia's for the taking, no team has ever chased down more than South Africa's 183 in 2008 since the first use of drop-in wickets at the MCG in 1996.
Both sides have struggled to score over 200 on a two-paced wicket amid Melbourne's notoriously fickle weather, which brought baking heat before a cool change ushered in chilly gusts and blew rubbish across the field late in the day.
England, however, were in large part the architects of their downfall in the second innings having pushed the lead to 116 without loss shortly after lunch.
England captain Alastair Cook had moved serenely to his third half-century and became the youngest cricketer at 29 to reach 8,000 test runs, but his wicket for 51 was duly followed by the loss of three more for one run in the session.
Rejuvenated seamer Mitchell Johnson firmed his bid for man-of-the-series by trapping Cook in front with a searing inswinger and finished with 3-25 after having