Adelaide - England took three Australian wickets after lunch on the fourth day of the second Ashes Test on Monday, leaving the hosts still trailing by 215 runs and praying for rain to avoid an innings defeat.
Dark clouds on the horizon indicated that the hosts' prayers might be answered as Michael Clarke, who had scored 36 not out, and Mike Hussey, who was unbeaten on 14, helped them reach the tea break at 160-3.
England, chasing their first Ashes victory in Australia since the 2002-03 tour to take a 1-0 lead in the series, had declared their first innings at 620-5 with a lead of 375 after nine overs of play in the morning.
Australia openers Simon Katich and Shane Watson initially dug in to steer their side safely to lunch but England spinner Graeme Swann struck soon after the break.
Katich, who had hobbled through his innings because of an Achilles heel injury, was the first to go, getting a faint outside edge from a Swann delivery and being caught behind by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Australia skipper Ricky Ponting survived 21 minutes and a thorough examination from Swann before getting a thick edge to the 19th ball he faced with Paul Collingwood taking a good catch at first slip.
Ponting reacted with disbelief to his dismissal for nine runs, an improvement on the golden duck he made in the first innings but not the way he wanted to celebrated his 150th Test.
Watson survived for a while before being deceived by a quick delivery from Steve Finn and he was also caught in the slips for 57, England skipper Andrew Strauss taking the catch.
Strauss had declared England's first innings after his team had added 69 runs to their overnight total on a sun-baked pitch in the morning.
Kevin Pietersen was dismissed for 227 - his highest Test score - after adding 14 runs to his tally with left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty finally getting some reward for his efforts and Katich taking the catch at slip.
Ian Bell put on 27 runs to reach his 25th half century and finish on 68 not out, while Matt Prior made an unbeaten 27 after being saved from a lbw dismissal off the bowling of Peter Siddle courtesy of a review of the TV pictures.
Australia's woes were summed up when Prior swept the ball over square leg and Ponting and Marcus North left the catch for each other.
Rain stopped play at tea on Sunday and more is expected later on Monday with a deluge forecast for Tuesday. England are hoping to win an Ashes series in Australia for the first time in 24 years.
England: AJ Strauss (capt), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, IR Bell, MJ Prior (wk), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, JM Anderson, ST Finn
Australia: SM Katich, SR Watson, RT Ponting (capt), MJ Clarke, MEK Hussey, MJ North, BJ Haddin (wk), XJ Doherty, PM Siddle, RJ Harris, DE Bollinger