Michael Hill made fallible England pay for his first-ball reprieve with a maiden hundred in Victoria's 216 for two declared on day one of three at the MCG.
Twenty-two-year-old Hill was dropped four times in all - England also missed a half-chance to get rid of David Hussey on 43 - on his way to 105 not out.
The left-handed opener shared an unbroken stand of 147 in 40 overs with Hussey (67no) before Cameron White ordered a sporting declaration.
England then replied with 50 by stumps, for the loss of Alastair Cook - edging a cut behind off slow left-armer Jon Holland, for a paltry 27 compared with his prolific Ashes run-making of late.
For the tourists, complimented two days ago by coach Andy Flower on their "perfect" innings victory in the second Test at Adelaide, today saw a less impressive demonstration of their talents.
Matt Prior, relieved of his wicketkeeping duties for this match and replaced behind the stumps by Steve Davies, dropped a regulation chance at third slip when a scoreless Hill edged Chris Tremlett in the first over.
It was Prior too who put down a tougher opportunity, diving to his right at midwicket when Hill mishit a slog-sweep off Monty Panesar's first delivery on 21.
The former Australia Under-19 World Cup captain took advantage in a painstaking 251-ball innings, which eventually contained 11 fours on a stodgy pitch. Tim Bresnan struck first for England this morning, as the tourists' three seam-bowling Ashes hopefuls sought to press their claims for the third Test.
One of Bresnan, his fellow Yorkshireman Ajmal Shahzad and Tremlett will replace the injured Stuart Broad in Perth - where England will be out to consolidate their 1-0 series lead.
Tremlett is the obvious front-runner thanks to his 6ft 8in stature, and the WACA's reputation for steepling bounce.
After White won the toss on a cloudy day, Tremlett and Shahzad took the new ball.
Tremlett's should have been the first name in the wickets column when he had Hill edging to Prior before either of his fellow Perth contenders had laid a hand on the ball.
Instead it was Bresnan who got the first wicket, with only his second delivery after replacing Shahzad at the Southern Stand end.
His first ball was driven for four past cover by debutant Ryan Carters, who went to the next - trying to pull out of a forward-defence but edging some well-directed swing behind to Davies.
The watchful Hill finally managed a boundary, an off-drive off Bresnan from the 42nd ball he faced.
Shortly before lunch, he had his second escape, but in early afternoon unveiled a sudden clutch of previously unsuspected shots.
Two boundaries in one Panesar over were followed by just the fourth of his innings, a hook off Bresnan, to reach his 50.
By then, White had lost his patience - getting nowhere near the pitch and underneath an attempted hit over the top off Panesar and holing out to deep mid-off.
Hussey joined Hill, who retreated into his shell again and had added only 12 more to his half-century when he was dropped for a third time just before tea - Davies unable to cling on to an inside edge, with Tremlett again the bowler to suffer.
England's effort was undermined by two more missed chances, Hill driving Bresnan through Tremlett's hands at mid-on on 92 and a Hussey carve finger-tipped by Ian Bell at gully off Shahzad.