Australia require a miraculous knock of Ashton Agar proportions to make a game of the third Ashes Test, with an embarrassing loss looming large.
Australia avoided a two-day defeat at Edgbaston on Thursday, but hold a lead of just 23 runs after slumping to 7-168 at stumps.
Recalled paceman Steve Finn snared a five-wicket haul for England, while first-innings destroyer Jimmy Anderson limped off with a side injury.
Peter Nevill will resume on 37 alongside Mitchell Starc.
David Warner scored 77 and was the only batsman in Australia’s top six to reach double figures in the second dig.
Warner pulled no punches when asked what is required to prevent England taking a 2-1 lead in the five-Test series.
“We need a bit of an Ashton Agar cameo,” Warner said, referencing the No.11 batsman’s record-breaking knock of 98 in the 2013 Ashes.
“Anything that we can get is a bonus.
“If I’m being realistic, you definitely need (a lead of) at least 150-plus.”
Defeat seems a formality for the tourists, a result which will seriously jeopardise their hopes of being the first Australian team to win a Test series in England since 2001.
The only time a side has battled back from such a position to win an Ashes series was in 1936-37, when Don Bradman led Australia to a 3-2 victory after they trailed 0-2.
In 1972, Australia came back from 2-1 down to tie the series at The Oval but holders England retained the urn.
Australia have plenty to think about before the fourth Test starts in Nottingham next Thursday.
Aside from Mitchell Johnson, who dismissed Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes with bouncers in a sensational opening over on Thursday, their pacemen lacked control.
More alarming were woeful collapses of 5-60 in the first dig and 4-30 on Thursday.
There will be questions of technique and temperament, but also ponderings about personnel.
“There might be a few changes,” Shane Warne predicted on Sky Sports.
Warner struggled to explain why he and Nevill looked to be batting on a different pitch to their teammates.
“We just have to adapt to these conditions and bat long periods of time,” the aggressive opener said.
“We’ve got to be better at that, try to dig deep and be patient.
“It’s a fantastic batting wicket.”
The match has resembled a procession from the moment Warner, Steve Smith and Michael Clarke fell inside the first hour on Wednesday.
Australia chipped away at England’s first-innings lead of 145 runs with early success on Thursday, reaching 1-62 in the 13th over.
It unravelled spectacularly when Finn dismissed Smith for the second time in the match, a sloppy pull shot resulting in a skied edge that landed straight in the lap of keeper Jos Buttler.
Finn went on to snare 4-25 in an incredible eight-over spell either side of tea, also removing Clarke, Adam Voges and Mitch Marsh.
“Unless we get those three wickets tomorrow and knock off the runs we’ll look pretty silly talking about it now,” Finn said.
“It’s been a topsy-turvy series.”