Steven Finn twice put himself on a hat-trick as England's potent seam attack took advantage of favourable conditions to restrict Australia to 200 for nine at Chester-le-Street.
Finn (four wickets for 37 runs) was lethal with the new and older ball, and Ravi Bopara's part-time medium-pace was unplayable at times as a high water table and initial cloud cover made for exaggerated sideways movement off the seam and occasionally in the air.
David Hussey (70) and Michael Clarke dug in manfully to try to keep Australia competitive in this fourth NatWest Series match, and their half-century stands with Brett Lee and Shane Watson respectively mustered a total which was more substantial than had appeared likely.
England had reason to rue a clutch of close lbw calls which did not go their way, but did not help themselves either by putting down four catches - including Hussey twice, half-chances back to the bowler Bopara on 15 and to Ian Bell in the deep on 29. Finn saw off opener David Warner and number three Peter Forrest, both lbw, after Alastair Cook won a significant toss.
It was remarkable that play was able to get under way on time, after the welter of rain which fell in the north-east last night.
England, scenting the victory needed here for a 3-0 lead and consequent series victory with a match to spare, soon put themselves bang on course.
Warner needed 16 balls to get off the mark and had managed only to double that tally when he played across a full-length delivery from Finn and was hit on the pad. Nigel Llong decided not out, but DRS vindicated England by demonstrating the ball pitched in line and would have hit middle-stump.
There was not even a passing doubt about Finn's second success as he pitched full again to Forrest, who got nowhere with a hesitant forward push and was hit on the back pad for a first-ball duck.
Clarke survived a hat-trick ball which snaked back between bat and pad and was well taken high to his left by wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter.
First-change Tim Bresnan should have had the next wicket, and a big one too, when Clarke drove to Eoin Morgan at point on eight only for the Irishman to put down a straightforward catch.
The Australia captain escaped on 31 when an edge at Stuart Broad just evaded a diving James Anderson at first slip - and England had no luck with lbw appeals against him, or Hussey on nought when a review was invested and lost on Bopara's inswinging yorker.
Bopara had already bowled George Bailey with one that nipped away off the pitch and clipped the off-bail, while the batsman was aiming to leg, and Watson chopped on to Bresnan.
Finn returned to see off Clarke, after two hours of resistance, when he missed an off-drive and lost his off-stump.
Matthew Wade then went for a golden duck thanks to alarming late swing from Finn, a thin edge and a brilliant diving catch from Kieswetter to make it 96 for six.
But Hussey, with a 62-ball 50, and Lee shared a determined seventh-wicket stand of 70 to give Australia hope of something to bowl at.