Nathan Lyon joined the 100-club with a five-wicket haul as England were bowled out for 179 on Saturday, setting Australia a target of 231 to win the fourth Test.
While tearaway quick Mitchell Johnson grabbed 3-25 off 15 overs to surge to 31 victims for the series and eight for the match, it was Lyon who grabbed centre stage in front of over 60,000 fans at the MCG.
The 26-year-old offspinner claimed 5-50, his fourth career five-wicket haul in 29 matches, and moved to second on the series wicket-taking list for Australia with 16.
England’s target will be a challenging one for Australia in a low-scoring game with 16 overs remaining on day three and two full days after that.
After an opening stand of 65 in which skipper Alastair Cook scored a breezy 51, England lost 4-22 including three wickets in six balls.Cook was lbw to Mitchell Johnson and fellow opener Michael Carberry (12 off 81 balls) fell in the same fashion to Peter Siddle at 2-86 in the 28th over.Player-of-the series contender Johnson claimed two wickets as a fielder in the next over, bowled by Lyon.
Johnson threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end to run out Joe Root and two deliveries later Ian Bell was caught by Johnson at mid off for a golden duck.Lyon removed Ben Stokes, caught at long off at 5-131.
Almost run out on nine, Kevin Pietersen had another life when he was dropped off a diving George Bailey at short mid-wicket on 27.
Pietersen pulled away from the batting crease several times during the day while the bowler was running in, claiming various issues including movement behind the sightscreen.
A furious Johnson argued with Pietersen and threw the ball in the general direction of the batsman in disgust during one such incident in the 53rd over.
Johnson struck in his next over when Jonny Bairstow was caught behind as the left-armer claimed his 30th victim of the series.
Lyon dismissed tailenders Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad for ducks with the score on 174 to become the 35th Australian to claim 100 Test wickets.
Pietersen holed out to long off from Lyon’s bowling at 9-179 and Monty Panesar was lbw to Johnson.
The home side made 204 in reply to England’s first innings of 255.Australia had resumed on 9-164 on Saturday.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin top-scored with a gusty knock of 65 and added 40 valuable runs for the last wicket with Lyon.
Australia lead the five-match series 3-0 and the home side have already regained the Ashes.