Josh Hazlewood dented England's sedate progress in the Old Trafford Test with a trio of late wickets to leave the hosts reeling at 200-5 by the end of the third day's play.
England were still 297 runs away from Australia's commanding total of 497-8 declared in the first innings at stumps.
Hazlewood starred with the ball for his side, picking up all the four wickets that fell throughout the day.
Ben Stokes, whose incredible century saw England achieve a dramatic one-wicket win in the previous game, will resume batting with Jonny Bairstow on the fourth day.
England were rescued by a gritty 141-run stand between Rory Burns (81) and captain Joe Root (71) as they weathered the storm of Australia's fearsome pace attack.
However, an inspiring spell from Hazlewood shifted the momentum back to the visitors as he removed the well-set batsmen before dismissing the out of form Jason Roy batting at a new position in the line-up.
Australia will fancy their chances of completing a win in the remaining two days, which effectively seals the Ashes series giving them an unassailable 2-1 lead with one match to go.
England lost nightwatchman Craig Overton early in the day after the first session was washed out due to persistent rain.
Burns, who scored a century in the first Test at Edgbaston, batted with resolve as he intently drove Mitchell Starc to the boundary a couple of times despite a fidgety start to the innings.
His drive off the back-foot later in his determined knock helped him to the fourth half-century of his career.
Meanwhile, Burns found ample support from his skipper Root, whose nifty stroke play allowed the England score to gradually tick along.
For a brief period following the tea break, Root bore the brunt of Australia's bowling attack by copping a painful blow from a Starc delivery on his groin.
It eventually forced 28-year-old to seek medical assistance and call for a new box albeit he was soon struck on the leg by a sharp Pat Cummins delivery.
Root survived a close call when he edged the ball between wicketkeeper Tim Paine and David Warner stationed at first slip.
The incident occurred when Root was batting on 54 as it added onto the frustrations of Australia witnessing a wicketless session.
The raucous England crowd did not hide its partisan character as it continued to jeer at Nathan Lyon, in particular, every time the off-spinner failed to collect the ball cleanly.
A wasted review from Paine was met by a loud cheer from spectators indicating the kind of day Australia had up until that point.
Burns' patient 185-ball stay at the crease featuring nine fours finally came to an end when he edged a ball nipping away from him to first innings' double centurion Steve Smith in the slips.
Hazelwood then found a lucky breakthrough as an in-swinging delivery from the right-arm paceman kept low to strike Root flush on the pad plumb before the wicket.
Root, having lasted 168 balls out in the middle, was visibly disappointed at having to trudge back to the pavilion after being undone by the two-paced nature of the surface.
Roy's nightmare run in the Ashes series prolonged as England's plan to have him swap places with Joe Denly did little to overturn his fortunes.
Although he got off the mark with an assertive cover-drive off Hazlewood, the 28-year-old Aussie had his revenge immediately by disturbing the stumps with a superb delivery that jagged back off the seam.
England hope the procession of wickets experienced under hazy floodlights halts when Bairstow and Stokes recommence tomorrow.