Australia rampant in Perth
Australia’s bowlers usurped even the brilliant Mike Hussey as the hosts charged towards victory in the third Ashes Test.
Hussey’s consummate 116, his second century in three games, carried Australia to 309 and left England chasing 391 for a victory which would give them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
The scale of their already daunting pursuit grew immeasurably with the departures of both openers inside the first 10 overs, and any remaining doubts over the outcome of this contest had been extinguished by the time the entire top five had fallen before the close.
Paul Collingwood’s dismissal to what proved to be the last ball of the day left a shell-shocked England reeling on 81 for five, and an Australia side unrecognisable from that beaten so convincingly in Adelaide within sight of a series-levelling win.
Ryan Harris claimed the first and last of the England wickets to fall in a pulsating evening session, bowling with an aggression and discipline which was matched by Mitchell Johnson, who also struck twice.
Harris set England’s collapse in motion by trapping Alastair Cook lbw with one that nipped back, while the remainder of the casualties were victims of the swinging ball.
A leaden-footed Andrew Strauss edged Johnson, the architect behind England’s first-innings demise, to second slip, and Kevin Pietersen was taken at first slip after following one from Ben Hilfenhaus that he will feel he should have left alone.
Jonathan Trott, who made 31, saw Ricky Ponting parry a head-high chance to Brad Haddin - the Australia captain was forced from the field after injuring a finger on his left hand in the process - and James Anderson’s decision to turn down a single off the penultimate ball of the day proved fatal as Harris located Collingwood’s edge with the last.
Hussey’s contribution must not be overlooked. Playing on his home ground, he re-established himself as the leading batsman in the series with 517 runs.
It is worth remembering that he began it with his place and Test career in jeopardy, yet now boasts a run of scores that reads like an overseas telephone number: 195, 93, 52, 61, 116.
He was last man out as Chris Tremlett claimed 5-87 on his return to the England side, figures which appear destined to be inconsequential.
England’s resilience with the ball - they picked up the last six Australia wickets for 57 runs - was admirable, more so given that Shane Watson’s wicket was their only reward on a trying morning.
Resuming on 61, Watson had moved to within five runs of a maiden Ashes century when he was lbw playing down the wrong line to Steven Finn, failing - even after reviewing the decision - to buck a trend that has seen him convert just two of his 16 Test fifties into hundreds.
Hussey, as ever, was unperturbed, and moments later became the first player to score six successive half-centuries in Ashes contests, stretching back to 2009.
Both he and the hyperactive Steven Smith successfully challenged appeals that were initially answered in the affirmative during a breezy fifth-wicket stand worth 75, and Tremlett had to resort to Bodyline tactics to have the latter caught down the leg side off his glove for 36.
Hussey bettered Cook’s tally of 481 runs for the series when he pulled Graeme Swann through midwicket - the spinner, curiously, was not called upon until the 29th over of the day - but was powerless to prevent the loss of a further three wickets in quick succession.
Haddin, who opened his account by sweeping Swann for six, was bowled by Tremlett via inside edge and thigh; Johnson drove Collingwood to a diving Ian Bell at short extra-cover; and Harris miscued a pull off Finn to the same fielder, this time stationed at a deepish midwicket.
Hussey had gone to his 13th Test century moments earlier, the fluency of his strokeplay - his driving was faultless and he pulled with great authority - reflected in the fact he faced just 136 deliveries.
He had barely added to his tally after tea, failing to clear Swann at deep square-leg with a pull off Tremlett in the over after Peter Siddle steered Anderson to Collingwood at third slip.
It gave Anderson, 28, his 200th Test wicket - only Ian Botham has got there at a younger age - but the seamer’s unwitting role in Collingwood’s downfall in the day's final act and England’s perilous position means it is unlikely to mean much.