Mitchell Johnson electrified a world record Test crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with a searing new ball spell to capture two late wickets and leave England a rocky 226 for six at the close of the opening day of the fourth Test on Thursday.
Roared on by a heaving crowd of 91,092, the aggressive paceman steamed in to remove number six Ben Stokes and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow in quick succession to put Australia on top after Kevin Pietersen threatened to win the day for England.
The under-fire Pietersen was reprieved on six and 41, but quelled his attacking instincts to compile a defiant, if theatrical, 67 not out at stumps, with Tim Bresnan hanging on desperately with one run.
Seamer Ryan Harris captured his second wicket when he had Ian Bell caught behind by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin for 27 at the drinks break after tea.
The late wickets were a relief for Australia captain Michael Clarke who opted to field after winning his fourth successive toss of the series.
Bell and Pietersen had dug in for a defiant 67-run stand to frustrate the massive MCG crowd before the lionhearted Harris unleashed a sublime delivery that jagged away off the seam and had Bell feathering an edge.
Following Clarke, Bell became the second batsman to surpass 1,000 runs in Tests for the year.
Harris was unlucky not to have his third wicket in his next over, when Pietersen smacked a pull-shot to midwicket where George Bailey put down a tough chance with the South Africa-born batsman on 41.
Pietersen drew jeers from the crowd by calling for a drink and slumping to his knees after the escape, but smacked the next ball for a four to the long-on boundary.
More jeers followed as Pietersen called for the team physio, holding up play for another few minutes.
A miserly Australian attack left England 135 for three at tea but suffered a blow when all-rounder Shane Watson limped off the ground with a groin injury.
Watson bowled opener Michael Carberry for 38 but pulled up from his run-up in his seventh over and after a short exchange with Clarke, trudged off the ground.
Pietersen was caught for six at deep backward square by Nathan Coulter-Nile but the substitute fielder overbalanced and jogged over the boundary rope to grant the South Africa-born batsman a life shortly before tea.
A flat-footed Joe Root was caught behind by Haddin off the bowling of Harris for 24, the