Australia’s tail added 97 runs on day three of the third Ashes Test, but the tourists must rewrite 130 years of history if they’re to avoid going 2-1 down in the series.
England, set a target of 121 at Edgbaston, reached 0-4 after two overs when lunch was taken on Friday.
An English victory looked a formality, especially given the ease in which Mitchell Starc scored 58.
If Australia manage to do the unthinkable, it will be the lowest Test lead they’ve defended with the exception of a game at The Oval in 1882.
England failed to reel in 85 in that Test, the only time they’ve been unsuccessful in chasing a total under 122.
Peter Nevill started day three on 37, extending his stubborn knock for a further 45 minutes to push Australia to 7-217 when he fell for 59.
Starc continued to fight – bringing up his half-century and pushing the visitors’ lead past 100 with a six off Moeen Ali.
Starc went down swinging at Ali as Australia were bowled out for 265.
The wagging tail could be interpreted as a portent of how England might struggle in the fourth Test without Jimmy Anderson and/or another damning indictment of Australia’s batsmen.
“It just shows you how badly they played in the first two days,” Shane Warne said on Sky Sports.
“They didn’t bat time and let the pitch dry out. It would have been a good Test match.”
Recalled paceman Steve Finn snared the scalp of Nevill to finish with career-best figures of 6-79 in the second dig.
Nevill, given a life late on day two by counterpart Jos Buttler who dropped a leg-side catch, continued to frustrate the hosts as Australia scored 39 runs off the first six overs of the day.
The edges flew early in Nevill’s maiden Test half-century, although Stuart Broad was certain he had the breakthrough in the day’s fifth over.
Broad didn’t bother turning to appeal when Buttler snaffled a one-handed catch down the leg side.
Umpire Chris Gaffaney felt the ball came off something other than glove.
Hotspot confirmed the second-gamer should have been out, but England had wasted their two reviews on day two.
Broad pouted, much like in his previous over when an Ali misfield cost the side a boundary, but Finn struck soon after.
This time, Nevill unsuccessfully reviewed a leg-side catch from Buttler, out of optimism more than anything else.
Part-timer Joe Root was given an over before Alastair Cook threw the ball to Ben Stokes.
Stokes recorded a wicket maiden in his first over on Friday, with Root grabbing a remarkable catch at third slip to dismiss Josh Hazlewood for 11.
Nathan Lyon could have been out in the same over if Cook had a review left, with a confident lbw shout turned down by Aleem Dar.
Lyon finished 12 not out, meaning the bottom five in the order contributed almost 60 per cent of the runs in the second dig.