After being set 531 to win the second Test in Adelaide, England successfully batted through day four to close on 247 for six but Australia need just four more wickets to go 2-0 up in the series.
Australia declared on their overnight score of 132 for three to give themselves ample time to bowl at England and for the first time in four innings so far, the tourists produced a decent effort.
Half-centuries from Joe Root (87) and Kevin Pietersen (53) were the highlights although with one full day remaining, Australia will nevertheless be expected to pick up the remaining wickets and take a 2-0 lead to Perth.
It was no surprise to see Michael Clarke decide against batting on as only once in the history of first-class cricket has a team scored more than 531 to win a first-class match, and never in a Test; England's highest score in the series until today had been just 179.
And things were looking ominous for the tourists, who were dismissed for just 172 on day two, when openers Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry fell for one and 14 respectively.
Cook took on a short ball from Mitchell Johnson but only found Ryan Harris at fine leg while Carberry, who scored an important 60 in the first innings, fell in similar circumstances, this time pulling Peter Siddle to Nathan Lyon at deep square.
From 20 for two, Root and Pietersen then combined to take England to the lunch break without further loss of wickets and they eventually added 121 together.
Pietersen hit two fours and three sixes in making 53 in 99 balls before he was bowled by a Siddle inswinger.
Ian Bell was next to go when he played a poor shot to a poor ball by Steven Smith and was brilliantly caught by Johnson - who can seemingly do no wrong - for just six.
The next wicket was the biggest of the day for Australia when Root's 194-ball innings came to an end. Looking to defend against Lyon, he got a thin edge which was taken by Brad Haddin, whose 200th Test catch ended a fine knock from England's number three.
Ben Stokes made 28 in 90 balls, battling hard but he was next to go when Harris had him caught by Clarke at slip to leave England 210 for six.
The hitherto badly out-of-form Matthew Prior remained unbeaten on 31 in 70 balls while Stuart Broad cracked three fours as England ended the day positively, with the all-rounder on 22 in 23 deliveries.
However, still needing another 284 runs to win, and with Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Monty Panesar the batsmen to come, England need more than a few boundaries against a tiring attack.
With Australia fresh tomorrow morning, and with so many runs to play with, the sort of rain that rescued the West Indies in Dunedin would be about the only thing that can save England.
Siddle finished the day with two for 21, Smith one for 43, Harris one for 45, Johnson one for 53 and Lyon one for 78.
© Cricket World 2013