England rode their luck through a rocky afternoon spell to reach 167-3 in their first innings at the close of play on the second day of the fifth Ashes test after dismissing Australia for 280 today.
Alastair Cook, who was saved from dismissal by a no-ball review, had made 61 with nightwatchman James Anderson alongside him on one after a triple blow from the Australian bowlers had disrupted England's comfortable post-lunch progress.
England have already retained the Ashes courtesy of their innings and 157-run victory in Melbourne last week but Australia could still square the series at 2-2 with a victory this week.
That looked highly unlikely when Australia were reduced to 189-8 in the morning session but Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus then delighted the 40,000 crowd at the Sydney Cricket Ground with a stand of 76 for the ninth wicket.
After dismissing the Australians, England were cruising at 98 without loss in their reply when Hilfenhaus bowled Andrew Strauss for 60 to reignite the contest.
Johnson, who had made 53 with the bat, then struck to remove Jonathan Trott for a duck six balls later and England were on the rack.
Kevin Pietersen, who came out to the crease to a chorus of boos, survived a shaky start, most notably when he hit the ball between his legs and the stumps when he was on eight.
Cook was approaching his third half century of the series on 46 when Australia's debutant spinner Michael Beer thought he had claimed his first test wicket.
England's top batsman of the series walked after ballooning the ball into the hands of Hilfenhaus but umpire Billy Bowden called him back and checked with the third umpire, who confirmed that the hapless Beer had overstepped the crease.
Pietersen look destined to stay with Cook until the end of the day but, when he was on 36, a rush of blood to the head saw him mis-time a hook shot off Johnson and Beer took a comfortable catch at deep backward square.
It was a shot that recalled those made by several Australian batsmen as the hosts lost four wickets for 55 runs in the morning.
Brad Haddin, elevated to number six in the batting order, departed for six runs 20 minutes into the session after a wild slash at an Anderson delivery took a big edge and Matt Prior claimed a simple catch behind the wicket.
Mike Hussey started by defying the English attack as he has for much of the series but he went for 33 just before the new ball was taken, tricked into an inside edge onto his own stumps by an inswinger from Paul Collingwood.
Anderson got the new ball swinging immediately and Steve Smith was the next to go for 18 with an ill-advised attempt at a big drive that took an edge and Collingwood snaffled up at third slip.
Peter Siddle made two runs but lasted just four balls before getting an outside edge to another Anderson outswinger and England skipper Andrew Strauss did the honours in the slips.
Johnson and Hilfenhaus then mounted their marvellously aggressive rearguard action, both slugging sixes in one three-ball spell.
Once Tim Bresnan had removed Johnson's off stump, however, it was only a matter of time and Hilfenhaus duly fell, well caught behind for 34 after getting a nick on a short delivery from Anderson, who finished with 4-66.