Australia held an overall lead of 230 runs at stumps on day three of the first Test against India at the MCG, after reaching 179 for eight in their second innings.
Michael Hussey (79 not out) and Ricky Ponting (60) combined for a 115-run stand that halted a damaging top-order collapse - but the latter's dismissal means India are in command of a see-saw contest.
Hussey, dropped in the slips by Rahul Dravid in the shadows of stumps, will join number 10 James Pattinson (three not out) when play resumes tomorrow.
The hosts' top four each failed to reach double figures, undoing the superb work of Ben Hilfenhaus - who earlier today claimed his first Test five-wicket haul to earn Australia a 51-run first-innings lead.
Under-fire veterans Hussey and Ponting came to the crease after young Indian quick Umesh Yadav (four wickets for 49 runs) rifled through the top order to leave Australia teetering on 27 for four.
Ponting hit his second half-century of the match by driving off the back foot to deep point and then running all four runs to raucous applause of the 40,000-strong crowd. Hussey, out for a golden in the first innings, reached his 50 the next over as Australia regained the momentum.
But 36-year-old Ponting fell well short of a drought-breaking hundred when he presented a catch to gully off veteran seamer Zaheer Khan (two for 32).
And when out-of-form Brad Haddin was out for six, caught at second slip also to Zaheer, and tail-enders Peter Siddle (four) and Nathan Lyon (nought) followed, the tourists had wrested back control with two days to play.
Fifteen wickets fell on a day dominated by the bowlers despite there being no obvious signs of uneven bounce or menace in the wicket.
The visitors lost seven wickets for 68 runs during the morning session to be all out for 282 after Hilfenhaus claimed five for 75 in a devastating spell.
He removed Dravid (68), Virat Kohli (11), MS Dhoni (six) and Ishant Sharma (11) to dent India's challenge after they resumed at 214 for three, in reply to Australia's first-innings 333.
Fans had barely settled in their seats before Dravid was clean bowled second ball of the day. The Tasmanian seamer produced a perfect delivery which came in and then moved away slightly to beat the outside edge of Dravid's bat and hit the top of off-stump.
Siddle (three for 63) then had VVS Laxman caught behind by Haddin for two - and Australia took control when Hilfenhaus struck twice within three overs midway through the morning session.
Kohli presented a simple catch to Haddin after edging an outswinger and skipper Dhoni lasted three deliveries against the new ball before picking out Hussey at gully.
Nightwatchman Sharma provided the most resistance but eventually presented Haddin with his fifth catch of the innings.
However Australia blew a chance to take control of the match when they suffered a dramatic top-order collapse.
David Warner (five) was the first to go chopping a ball from Yadav onto the stumps while his partner Ed Cowan (eight) was out three balls later, foolishly leaving a ball that straightened and struck him on the pads.
Shaun Marsh was bowled for three, playing on to his stumps when attempting to drive a pitched-up Yadav ball.
Then captain Michael Clarke (one) made it a pair of failures in the series opener when Sharma tore through his defence with a 149.9 km/h thunderbolt.
India's enforced absence of the decision review system has again worked to their advantage in this contest.
Ravichandran Ashwin was struck in front in the first session only to be given not out despite replays showing the ball hitting middle and leg stumps.
And replays showed Cowan's dismissals - caught behind in the first innings and lbw in the second - were both incorrect.