By bowling Australia out in the morning session for 385 and then beginning their innings strongly, England had the better of most of day two of the third Ashes Test in Perth before they closed on 180 for four.
However, after reaching 85 without loss, England then lost four wickets for 61 runs and ended the day with Ian Bell and Ben Stokes defiantly blocking their way through to stumps.
Stuart Broad (3-100), Tim Bresnan (1-81) and James Anderson (2-60) bowled well in the morning and despite being held up by a 31-run last-wicket stand between Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon, England had achieved their first objective of bowling Australia out before they had got to 400.
Steve Smith, unbeaten on 103 overnight, added just eight to his score before falling to Anderson.
Alastair Cook then hit 72 and Michael Carberry 43 as England started promisingly, only for Australia to fight back through Lyon, Ryan Harris, Shane Watson and Siddle, who all took a wicket apiece to leave the match tantalisingly poised.
England's day it might just have been, but at 2-0 down in the series, they would have dearly loved to have had a few more wickets in hand, particularly with the new ball due in 12 overs.
Resuming on 326 for six, Australia didn't add a run before Mitchell Johnson edged Broad to Prior and it wasn't long before Smith fell, caught by Matthew Prior as hot spot revealed an inside edge after Anderson's delivery snuck through his defensive stroke.
Harris then made 12 before driving Anderson to Joe Root at gully before England were held up by Siddle, who made 21, and Lyon, who scored 17 not out. Their partnership was finally broken when Siddle offered a thick edge to Prior off Bresnan.
Cook had said in the build-up to this Test that it was time for him to lead from the front and to start playing a good game instead of just talking one. He began to make good on those words with a gutsy 72 in 153 balls while Carberry made 43 in 76.
Their 85-run stand in 25.4 overs put some pressure on Australia before Carberry, who hit eight fours and a six, was bowled by Harris, who had recently decided to come around the wicket. Trying to leave the ball, he just failed to get his bat out of the way and dragged the ball onto his stumps.
If it was a cruel way to get out, it rather summed up England's Test series so far, with little going right when they needed it most.
Five runs and just more than five overs later, Root was given out caught behind by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin off Watson for four. Given out on the field, he reviewed immediately and although the replays could give no conclusive evidence that he had hit the ball, the decision was upheld.
Cook finally fell, having batted for more than three hours, when a Lyon delivery bounced more than he expected and he cut the ball to David Warner at point; his disappointment at undoing so much hard work obvious by the way he made his way slowly from his crease.
Pietersen, however, deserved little sympathy for his dismissal. He made 19 in 59 balls with Australia doing well to starve him of scoring options and when Siddle came on, England's number four played an ill-advised leg-side shot and was well caught by Johnson at mid-on.
Siddle has now dismissed him 10 times in Test matches and this one had seen England lose four wickets for 61 runs. Australia had turned the tables.
Bell (9 not out in 62 balls) and Stokes (14 not out in 43 balls) then decided, not unreasonably, that their primary goal was to make it to stumps with their wickets intact, ready to start afresh on day three.
Bell in particular played barely a shot in anger, although Stokes hit three fours, impressing again in just his second Test and both men were prepared to take a few body blows in the process.
England can at least expect to avoid the follow-on early on day three but the manner in which they bat, and for how long after that milestone is passed, will define whether the direction of the match will be in their hands or Australia's.
© Cricket World 2013