The West Indies captain was unbeaten on 112 as his team reached tea 54 short of their target of 308, but with only two wickets standing. They had looked well-placed at 238 for five, only for Glenn McGrath to claim three quick wickets to turn what has been a superb match back in Australia's favour.
The pace bowler, who claimed four wickets in the first innings, ended the 133-run sixth-wicket partnership between Lara and Jimmy Adams by clean bowling Adams for 36. Minutes later he trapped Ridley Jacobs, who scored 68 in the first innings, lbw for five, and got Nehemiah Perry first ball, also lbw, to take his match haul to nine.
Lara and Adams, who put on a record fifth-wicket partnership of 322 in the second Test, came together nine overs into the final day with their team in deep trouble at 105 for five. But after an early steadying action, Lara cut loose, particularly after lunch. He brought up his 50 with a huge six over midwicket off Shane Warne and reached his century with an on-driven four off the same bowler.
In between those two landmarks, the Kensington Oval crowd was treated to a nerve-tingling new-ball battle between Lara and pacemen McGrath and Jason Gillespie.
The contest was encapsulated by one fierce over when McGrath struck Lara on the helmet with a bouncer and Lara responded with a mighty pull to the midwicket boundary.
As McGrath and Gillespie tired, the West Indies captain, who scored 213 to win the second Test virtually single-handedly, went for his shots.
But McGrath showed just why he is rated by many as the world's best bowler by turning the tables again. After the bowler had claimed the sixth lbw decision of the innings, Curtly Ambrose survived the hat-trick ball and then two more overs without scoring but West Indies' hopes now depend on their skipper.
Only three times in 350 Tests have West Indies scored more than 300 to win a Test. They scored 348 for five against New Zealand in Auckland during 1968-69, 344 for one against England at Lord's in 1984 and 317 for two against Pakistan in Georgetown during 1957-58.
Final day; Australia won toss
AUSTRALIA - First Innings 490 (S R Waugh 199, R T Ponting 104).
WEST INDIES - First Innings 329 (S L Campbell 105, R D Jacobs 68; G D McGrath 4-124).
AUSTRALIA - Second Innings 146 (C A Walsh 5-39).
WEST INDIES - Second Innings
(Overnight: 85 for 3)
A F G Griffith lbw b Gillespie 35
*B C Lara not out 112
C L Hooper c Healy b Gillespie 6
J C Adams b McGrath 38
R D Jacobs lbw b McGrath 5
N O Perry lbw b McGrath 0
C E L Ambrose not out 0
Extras (b8 lb11 w1 nb 4) 24
Total (for 8, 105 overs) 254
Fall (cont): 4-91 5-105 6-238 7-248 8-248.
To bat: C A Walsh.
Bowling: McGrath 38-12-69-5; Gillespie 22-8-49-2 (nb3); Warne 20-4-53- 0 (nb1); MacGill 20-6-45-1; S R Waugh 5-0-19-0 (w1).
Umpires: E A Nicholls (WI) and D L Orchard (SA).
Rain forced the abandonment of the sixth and final one day international between New Zealand and South Africa at Wellington's Basin Reserve yesterday, although the home side can still square the series if the match can be replayed today. Contributions from the top five South African batsmen helped the tourists to a score of 249 for 4 in 48.4 overs before rain brought the innings to a premature close and then prevented any further play. Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs appeared to put the tourists on course for 300 after reaching 84 before Gibbs edged Dion Nash to wicketkeeper Adam Parore.Reuse content