The 39-year-old veteran, who had been struggling for form for a long time, played with decisive footwork and a positive frame of mind to guide India to 182 for three in 52 overs on the second day at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, which saw local boy R Ashwin grab a career-best seven-wicket haul.
Tendulkar (71 batting) and Virat Kohli (50 batting) were at the crease when stumps were drawn with India still trailing by 198 runs. The two have so far added 77 runs for the fourth wicket.
Tendulkar, in the course of his 67th Test half-century, touched another milestone by surpassing 7,000 runs on home turf. Kohli, on the other hand, completed his seventh Test half-century at the fag end of the day.
Resuming at the overnight score of 316/7, the Australians continued to frustrate the Indians with captain Michael Clarke (130) and the tailenders combining to score 64 more runs to take the score to a competitive 380.
Ashwin, who had scalped six wickets on the opening day, cliamed the wicket of last man Nathan Lyon to return with figures of 7/103, while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (2/71) and Harbhajan Singh (1/87) were the other wicket-takers.
The Indian reply was disastrous to start with as openers Virender Sehwag (10) and Murali Vijay (2) departed in close succession, falling to tearaway pacer James Pattinson, who was used in short spells.
But Cheteshwar Pujara (44) and Tendulkar steadied the innings to some extent with a 93-run third-wicket partnership. Both the batsmen launched a brilliant counter-attack to unsettle the Aussie bowlers.
Australia: Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Matthew Wade (wicketkeeper), Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon. 12th man: Glenn Maxwell
India: Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma