Fast bowler Mark Wood took three wickets after Jonny Bairstow pulverised Australia with a thrilling 99 not out as England strengthened their grip on a must-win fourth Test at Old Trafford on Friday.
Australia were 113-4 in their second innings at stumps on the third day, still 162 runs behind England’s huge first-innings 592.
Durham express quick Wood had stumps figures of 3-17 from just seven overs, a return that included the 100th Test wicket of his injury-blighted career.
England, at 2-1 down with two to play, have to win in Manchester if they are to stand a chance of regaining the Ashes.
Wicketkeeper Bairstow followed his blistering 81 ball-assault on Australia’s bowlers, which included 10 fours and four sixes, by holding a routine edge off Wood as Australia lost Usman Khawaja early in their innings.
David Warner, Australia’s other left-handed opener, survived against longstanding nemesis Stuart Broad only to chop on to Chris Woakes for 28 when uncertain over whether to leave the ball or play a shot.
Wood took his 100th Test wicket when star Australia batter Steve Smith, neither pulling nor paddling a bouncer, was caught down the legside by Bairstow for just 17.
The 33-year-old Wood, who had shaken up several Australia batters on his return to England duty in the hosts’ third Test win at Headingley, then showed the value of sheer speed with a rising delivery, angled in at the body, that took the shoulder of Travis Head’s bat before looping gently to Ben Duckett in the gully.
But Marnus Labuschagne (44 not out) was still there at stumps, with Mitchell Marsh unbeaten on one off 27 balls.
England had already enjoyed a remarkable run-spree, opener Zak Crawley top-scoring with 189, by the time Bairstow came in at 437-5 on Friday.
Bairstow, one of the stand-out batters during England’s ‘Bazball’ era of aggressive run-scoring, was only on 49 not out when joined by last man James Anderson.
He then promptly pulled a six off Mitchell Starc to complete his fifty in style.
Bairstow also hoisted Australia captain Pat Cummins for two more soaring sixes off successive balls, even though by then all the fielders – with the exception of wicketkeeper Alex Carey – were back on the boundary in a sure sign of how England’s dynamism had rattled their arch-rivals.
And there were more cheers from the crowd when the last-wicket pair ran a bye to Carey, who had controversially stumped Bairstow when standing back during the second Test at Lord’s when the England batter thought the ball was dead.
But having turned down the chance to get the two he needed for his hundred by only running a single, the 33-year-old Bairstow was left stranded on 99 after Anderson, 41 later this month was lbw to Cameron Green, in what could be the England all-time leading wicket-taker’s last Test on his Lancashire home ground
All of Australia’s three frontline bowlers, conceded more than 100 runs each, with Josh Hazlewood taking 5-126 in his 27 overs.
England’s innings featured six scores of at least fifty by their top seven – the first time they had achieved that feat since 1930 against the West Indies in Jamaica.
They resumed Friday on 384-4, 67 runs ahead, with Harry Brook 14 not out and England captain Ben Stokes unbeaten 24 not out.
Both batters went on to make fifties although, in a sign of Australia’s increasing fallibility, the Test world champions twice missed chances to run out Stokes.
Cummins eventually bowled Stokes for 61 but the 30-year-old fast bowler’s figures of 1-129 were the most expensive of his 54-Test career.