Adelaide - Australia captured two late wickets to leave England at a precarious 143-4 at tea on the fourth day of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide on Sunday, with only six wickets in hand to stave off a demoralising defeat.
Paceman Peter Siddle captured the breakthrough wicket of Kevin Pietersen to end a stubborn 111-run partnership with Joe Root, before part-time spinner Steven Smith struck to remove Ian Bell for six.
England were still 388 runs adrift of their fourth innings victory target of 531 at the break, with Root, unbeaten on 66, and Test debutant Ben Stokes yet to score and tasked with an improbable rescue mission at Adelaide Oval.
With Root and Pietersen looking increasingly comfortable on a hot, overcast day at Adelaide Oval, Siddle teased with a ball that shaped in slightly and the batsman played an inside edge onto his stumps to be out for 53.
Shortly before tea, Smith threw up a full toss which Bell, who was a rock in England's poor first innings of 172, slashed at, only for it to be well caught at mid-on by Mitchell Johnson.
England had resumed on 65-2 after their chase of 531 got off to a disastrous start, with openers Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry losing their wickets cheaply to rash shots before the first drinks break.
Pietersen came out with all guns blazing, smacking a full toss from part-time spinner Smith over the long-on boundary for six.
Root showed great composure in the face of a fierce spell from the red-hot Johnson, who teased the 22-year-old Yorkshireman's outside edge on two occasions and followed up almost every delivery with either a withering stare or a few choice words.
Root brought up his half-century with a well-timed drive for two but will need to rely on Stokes to remain with him for far longer than his previous batting partners if England are to have any hope.
Australia declared their innings closed at 132-3 before the start of play and the gambit paid rich dividends when Johnson struck with his third ball to remove England captain Cook for one run.
Having beaten Cook for pace in the first innings with a searing delivery that crashed into his stumps, Johnson flung in a short ball that the England skipper hooked poorly, the top edge flying high and allowing Ryan Harris to lumber in from long leg for a fine catch taken low and to his right.
Carberry, who scored a fighting 60 in the first innings, followed soon after when he pulled Siddle to the same position where Nathan Lyon took another excellent catch to dismiss the opener for 14.
Australia lead the five-Test series 1-0 after winning the opener in Brisbane. - Reuters