The old firm of Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting kept Australia alive with a fighting century stand against India in the opening Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
The senior duo, with their Test futures under scrutiny, pulled their team out of a huge hole at 27 for four with a crucial 115-run partnership to give Australia a slight edge with two days left.
Former skipper Ponting finally fell for 60, but Hussey, dismissed for a controversial first-ball duck in the first innings, led the way with an unbeaten 79 as Australia reached stumps at 179 for eight.
The Australians extended their 51-run innings lead to a 230-run advantage by the close with a result possible on Thursday's fourth day.
Hussey, dropped on 69 by Rahul Dravid at slip, was positive from the outset and aggressively went after runs to show selectors he still has plenty to offer at the age of 36.
Ponting made his second half-century of the match and looked on target for his first Test hundred in almost two years before Zaheer Khan coaxed a thick edge to Virender Sehwag in the gully.
Hussey lost more batting partners late in the day with the dismissals of Brad Haddin (6), Peter Siddle (4) and Nathan Lyon (4).
Paceman Umesh Yadav initiated the Australian top-order collapse with the first three wickets, removing both openers David Warner (5) and Ed Cowan (8) within four balls, and finished with four wickets.
Warner was bowled playing on from a loose shot, while Cowan was leg before wicket while padding up.
Australia's woes deepened when Shaun Marsh dragged a wide Yadav delivery onto his stumps for three and skipper Michael Clarke followed in the next over, playing on an Ishant Sharma ball for one to leave his team at 27 for four.
Ben Hilfenhaus earlier claimed his best wicket haul in Tests to give Australia a handy first-innings lead as India were dismissed for 282 at lunch.
The Tasmanian swing bowler, recalled for his first Test match in almost a year, captured five for 75.
India lost seven wickets for 68 off 28.1 overs after they looked in command at 214 for two late on Tuesday.
Australia got off to a flyer when Dravid was bowled second ball by Hilfenhaus on his overnight score of 68.
Hilfenhaus breached the famed defence of "The Wall" and clipped his off-stump just five balls after Tuesday's last-over dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar for 73 by Siddle.
V.V.S. Laxman took 20 balls to get off the mark and fell for two, caught low down by wicketkeeper Haddin off Siddle.
Although Laxman has a great batting record in Australia with four Test centuries, he has scored just 113 runs in seven innings at 16.14 at the MCG, one of his least productive venues in 131 Tests.
Virat Kohli, playing in his fifth Test, was next to go, feathering an enticing Hilfenhaus outswinger to Haddin for 11.
Hilfenhaus struck again in his next over when skipper M.S. Dhoni got a thick outside edge to be caught in the gully by Hussey for just six.
Nightwatchman Sharma became Hilfenhaus's fifth wicket when he was taken behind by Haddin for 11 off 69 balls.
Ravi Ashwin showed resistance with 31 off 35 balls with three fours and a top-edged six before he was last man out to Siddle. Yadav remained two not out.
Wicketkeeper Haddin finished with five catches for the innings.
Scorecard at the close on the third day of the first Test between Australia and India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday.
Australia 1st innings 333 (E. Cowan 68, R. Ponting 62; Zaheer Khan 4-77)
India 1st innings (overnight 214 for 3)
G. Gambhir c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 3
V. Sehwag b Pattinson 67
R. Dravid b Hilfenhaus 68
S. Tendulkar b Siddle 73
I. Sharma c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 11
V.V.S. Laxman c Haddin b Siddle 2
V. Kohli c Haddin b Hilfenhaus 11
M.S. Dhoni c Hussey b Hilfenhaus 6
R. Ashwin c Haddin b Siddle 31
Z. Khan b Pattinson 4
U. Yadav not out 2
Extras (w1, nb3) 4
Total (all out; 94.1 overs) 282
Fall of wickets: 1-22 (Gambhir), 2-97 (Sehwag), 3-214 (Tendulkar), 4-214 (Dravid), 5-221 (Laxman), 6-238 (Kohli), 7-245 (Dhoni), 8-254 (Sharma), 9-259 (Zaheer), 10-282 (Ashwin)
Bowling: Pattinson 23-6-55-2 (1w), Hilfenhaus 26-5-75-5 (1nb), Siddle 21.1-2-63-3 (2nb), Lyon 17-2-66-0, Hussey 5-0-15-0, Warner 2-0-8-0
Australia 2nd innings
D. Warner b Yadav 5
E. Cowan lbw b Yadav 8
S. Marsh b Yadav 3
R. Ponting c Sehwag b Zaheer Khan 60
M. Clarke b Sharma 1
M. Hussey not out 79
B. Haddin c Laxman b Zaheer Khan 6
P. Siddle c Dhoni b Yadav 4
N. Lyon lbw b Ashwin 0
J. Pattinson not out 3
Extras (b4, lb2, w1, nb3) 10
Total (for 8 wkts; 60 overs) 179
Fall of wickets: 1-13 (Warner), 2-16 (Cowan), 3-24 (Marsh), 4-27 (Clarke), 5-142 (Ponting), 6-148 (Haddin), 7-163 (Siddle), 8-166 (Lyon)
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 13-1-32-2 (1w, 1nb), Yadav 15-3-49-4, Sharma 11-0-41-1 (2nb), Ashwin 19-3-44-1, Sehwag 2-0-7-0
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG), Marais Erasmus (RSA)
Third umpire: Paul Reiffel (AUS)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)
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