Australia were battling to avoid their first defeat since the 2005 Ashes after India seized control of the third Test here in Perth yesterday.
India scored 294 in their second innings to set Australia a target of 413, then picked up two wickets to leave the home team in deep trouble. Australia limped to stumps on 65 for 2, still 348 away from victory, with their captain Ricky Ponting unbeaten on 24 and Mike Hussey five not out.
With two days to go and the pitch holding up well, there is plenty of time for Australia to manufacture a world-record 17th consecutive Test win, although only one side in 131 years of Test cricket has ever scored more runs in the fourth innings to win a Test. That was in 2003 when West Indies made 418 for 7 to beat Australia in Antigua. No team has scored 370 or more batting last to win on Australian soil.
Australia's chances were not helped when they lost openers Chris Rogers and Phil Jaques cheaply. Rogers, who is making his debut at the age of 30, was caught by the wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni for 16 off the bowling of Irfan Pathan. The left-arm seamer also dismissed Jaques, caught by Wasim Jaffer at fourth slip for 15, leaving Ponting and Hussey to survive a hostile last half-hour.
Earlier, the Australians had reduced the tourists to 160 for 6 just after lunch. Sachin Tendulkar (13), Rahul Dravid (3) and Sourav Ganguly (0) failed, but V V S Laxman, who has a knack of making big scores against Australia, was once again a thorn in their side.
He top-scored with a patient 79 and shared two vital partnerships, a 75-run stand with Dhoni for the seventh wicket to halt Australia's momentum, then a 51-run ninth-wicket stand with R P Singh to push the target past 400.
Australia's fast bowlers had to toil hard for their wickets on another hot day. Stuart Clark took four wickets, Brett Lee three and Mitchell Johnson one, while Andrew Symonds collected two in one over when he swapped medium pace for off-spin.
The nightwatchman Pathan frustrated Australia, occupying the crease for two hours in scoring 46, while Dhoni made an adventurous 38 that featured two huge sixes and R P Singh made a useful 30.