Skipper Michael Clarke left the tourists toiling in the field chasing after the ball before calling a halt with just over an hour left and setting England an improbable 561 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the five-Test series. England will have to create Ashes history to win the Gabba Test with their previous highest winning fourth innings score at 332 for seven in Melbourne in 1928.
The world record for the highest successful run chase is the West Indies' 418 for seven against Australia in Antigua in 2003, while the highest winning chase at the Gabba is Australia's 236 for seven against the West Indies in 1951.
England had a wretched start to their marathon salvage operation when Michael Carberry was bowled by Ryan Harris for a duck in the fifth over and Jonathan Trott completed a sorry match when he pulled straight to Nathan Lyon at deep square leg for nine. Carberry, England's topscorer in the first innings with 40, played back to Harris only for the ball to trickle through his legs and dislodge the bails. England went to stumps at 24 for two with Alastair Cook on 11 and Kevin Pietersen not out three.
Pietersen almost ran out his skipper when he darted off for a quick single on his first ball faced and Cook just made his ground. Clarke held on to his declaration decision seemingly to inflict maximum mental damage on Cook's team to set the tone for the rest of the Tests, after England's 3-0 series win three months ago for their third straight Ashes triumph.
Clarke and David Warner hit centuries as Australia accumulated an imposing 401 for seven, representing an overall lead of 560 as the home side set out to protect their 25-year unbeaten run at the Gabba ground. Dashing opener Warner scored his first Ashes Test century and skipper Clarke raised his 25th Test ton and sixth against England as the Australians rammed home their 159-run innings lead to seize control. Clarke bounced back strongly from his first innings batting failure when he was caught off a Stuart Broad lifter for one and has now scored 1,029 runs at the Gabba at an average of 114.33.
Warner raised his fourth Test ton with three runs off part-time spinner Joe Root a half-hour after lunch but later became another victim of Broad when he was caught behind for 124 off 154 balls with 13 fours and a six. The feisty left-hander shared in a 158-run partnership with Clarke in 131 minutes and his Ashes ton followed earlier Test centuries against New Zealand (123 not out), India (180) and South Africa (119).
Clarke brought up his hundred just before tea with a two through the on-side off Root but was bowled by Graeme Swann for 113 going for an extravagant swing. Brad Haddin hit out lustily for his second half-century of the match for 53 off 55 balls and Mitchell Johnson remained 39 not out at the time of the declaration. England's bowlers removed opener Chris Rogers (16) and number three Shane Watson (6) cheaply in the morning session.
Rogers was out to Broad's first ball of the day as he lofted a cut to Carberry at point. Watson was pinned down by tight England bowling but went cheaply again in the match when he top-edged a pull shot off Chris Tremlett's third delivery high to Broad at mid-on. Steve Smith fell for a duck when he was caught behind off Tremlett and George Bailey hit a chancy 34 before he was bowled by Swann.