Chris Woakes led the way with the ball before England openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett held firm to give England the upper hand in a must-win third Ashes Test for the hosts against Australia at Headingley on Saturday.
Woakes, playing his first Test since March last year, took 3-68 as Australia were dismissed for 224 in their second innings on a rain-marred third day.
That left England, who trail 2-0 in the five-match series, needing 251 to win.
England had more than two days to get the runs on a ground where there have only been five previous successful chases in excess of 250 to win a Test – including their own 362-9 in a dramatic one-wicket win over Australia four years ago built on current captain Ben Stokes’s stunning 135 not out.
They were 27-0 off just five overs at Saturday’s close, with Crawley nine not out and Duckett 18 not out.
“I’d like to think we’re in a really good position, obviously we’ve still got another 220 runs to chase to win this Test match, but I think if we were given this opportunity at the end of the first innings, I think we would’ve taken it,” Woakes told the BBC.
The 34-year-old seamer added: “The opportunity was put in front of us to bowl in decent bowling conditions, I think we did well to obviously bowl them out.”
Australia’s ‘backs up the wall’
Ashes-holders Australia were earlier indebted to Travis Head’s 77 on a largely overcast day that favoured England’s quicks.
“We’ve been in similar positions where we’ve had our backs up the wall as such, but this game has ebbed and flowed...It’s a huge day in the series tomorrow (Sunday),” Head told reporters.
After a lengthy rain delay, the match resumed at 1545 GMT with world Test champions Australia 116-4 and England a bowler down, with Ollie Robinson not used after his first-innings back spasm.
Nevertheless, Mitchell Marsh – who had marked his first Test since 2019 with a run-a-ball 118 in Australia’s first innings – drove a Stuart Broad inswinger down the ground before square-cutting Woakes for another four.
Woakes, however, had his revenge with a burst of two wickets for seven runs in 13 balls.
He first dismissed Marsh (28) when the all-rounder tried to withdraw his bat to an outswinger only to edge to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
New batsman Alex Carey walked out to a chorus of boos from a crowd still upset by his role in the controversial stumping of local hero Bairstow during Australia’s 43-run win in the second Test at Lord’s last week, when the Yorkshireman believed the ball was dead.
But the jeers turned to raucous cheers when Carey fell for five as he also tried to leave a Woakes delivery only to glove the ball onto his stumps.
Mark Wood’s outright speed had helped the injury-prone Durham fast bowler mark his return to Test cricket with 5-34 in Australia’s first innings. And he struck again when Mitchell Starc skyed the ball for Harry Brook to take a fine diving catch.
Wood then had Australia captain Pat Cummins, often a dangerous lower-order batsman, caught behind for just one after he fended outside off stump.
But new batsman Todd Murphy, in his first game of the series after fellow spinner Nathan Lyon’s tour-ending calf injury at Lord’s, stylishly cover-drove Wood for a first-ball four.
Head counter-attacked, smashing Wood through midwicket to complete a valuable fifty with his sixth four in 94 balls.
The left-hander, whose stand of 155 with Marsh had been the cornerstone of Australia’s first-innings total, continued his assault by pulling Woakes for six.
Head also hooked two successive Wood deliveries for six before he was last man out, going for another six off Broad (3-45), the senior England bowler in an attack without the rested James Anderson.
England are bidding to become just the second team to win a Test series from 2-0 down after the Australia side, inspired by batting great Don Bradman, that took the 1936/37 Ashes 3-2.