Chris Rogers' defiant half-century settled Australia after Stuart Broad's early triple-strike on day two of the fourth Investec Test at Chester-le-Street.
After Broad rattled out Australia's top order before lunch England's progress was slowed, on a pitch offering seam movement, by the battling qualities of Rogers.
The left-hander (71 not out) had grafted his way to the highest score of the match so far and after finally finding a willing partner in Shane Watson (38no) helped Australia to a tea-time 148 for four.
Together they put on an unbeaten stand of 72 after Steven Smith was caught behind off Tim Bresnan in the second over of the afternoon session.
Australia were therefore 90 runs in arrears after England were bowled out without adding to their overnight 238.
England did have their chance to remove both Rogers and Watson this afternoon, with both surviving dropped catches.
Bresnan failed to hang onto a tough return chance from Watson, when he was on five, before a diving Graeme Swann put down an even more difficult opportunity to remove Rogers at second slip.
Swann's drop allowed Rogers to move to his half-century - just the second of the game so far - and deserved reward for his grit after he watched Broad slice through the top order.
Broad began the day with just six wickets in the series but produced one of the unplayable spells he is inclined to as David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke all departed inside the first 14 overs.
Broad located the top of Warner's off-stump with a ball the left-hander, restored to the top of the order in place of Watson, had initially shaped to leave.
Khawaja was also caught in two minds as his late attempt to leave the ball offered the merest of underside edges to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Broad then claimed the key wicket of Clarke, Australia's only centurion in the series, when the skipper recklessly chased a wide ball.
Alastair Cook held on well over his head at first slip to leave Australia 49 for three.
It could have been even better for England too with Rogers twice reprieved by the Decision Review System in the same Broad over.
England first wasted an lbw review that clearly pitched outside leg-stump before umpire Tony Hill ruled Rogers caught behind.
The opener reviewed and while Hot Spot revealed contact was made only with his back pad only, Hawk-Eye suggested he was out lbw on 'Umpire's Call'.
Rogers remained, however, because Hill had not raised his finger for lbw - indeed he thought the left-hander had hit the ball.
It proved an important moment for Australia as Rogers was required to glue the innings together again when Smith edged behind off Bresnan shortly after lunch.
With Watson he was able to settle any growing Australian nerves as they negotiated 25.2 overs before tea to reduce England hopes of claiming a first-innings lead.
England had earlier failed to add to their overnight total before last-man Jimmy Anderson was bowled by Jackson Bird in the second over.