Australia face an immense challenge on day five of the first Test against South Africa, when they will resume at 4-169 with little hope of avoiding an inglorious defeat at the WACA.
Australia haven’t started their home summer with a Test loss since 1988, when West Indies belted the hosts by nine wickets at the Gabba.
The dismissals of David Warner and Steve Smith on Sunday, coupled with Friday’s collapse of 10-86, mean that streak is at great risk of ending.
The Proteas set Australia a victory target of 539 runs when Faf du Plessis declared at 8-540 shortly after lunch on day four.
History suggests only two results are possible. The highest successful run chase in Test cricket came in 2003, when West Indies reached 7-418 to defeat Australia in St John’s.
Young gun Kagiso Rabada, stepping up in the absence of injured spearhead Dale Steyn, bowled magnificently for South Africa.
Smith, Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges were all out edging to Rabada. The way the 21-year-old swung the ball both ways and successfully worked over Voges in the 47th over was particularly impressive.
Usman Khawaja, who is 58 not out and holds the key to Australia surviving Monday’s three sessions and heading to Hobart with the three-Test series level, was also undone by Rabada.
Khawaja was on 41 when he poked his bat at a delivery from the express paceman that swung late. Keeper Quinton de Kock opted against flying for the edge, leaving first slip Hashim Amla to grass a tough one-handed chance.
Smith and Khawaja pushed their side to 2-114 after the reprieve, only for Rabada to ruin their hopes of taking the honours in the afternoon session.
Allrounder Mitch Marsh, who will play the second Test but is under immense pressure to retain his spot in Australia’s XI, negotiated 29 balls to finish 15 not out on Sunday.
Warner and Shaun Marsh, who shared a sparkling 158-run opening stand in the hosts’ first innings, were both dismissed in the 13th over.
Warner cruised to 35 but was run out by a sensational piece of fielding from Temba Bavuma, while du Plessis pocketed a regulation slips catch to dismiss Marsh.
Another collapse was on the cards when Khawaja was given out for a golden duck the following over but he successfully reviewed the caught-behind dismissal.