Australia’s bid to retain the Ashes hit a speed bump on day three in Leeds as England captain Joe Root gave his side a chance to snatch a remarkable third Test victory.
Set 359 for a win that would level the five-Test series at 1-1, England was 3-156 at stumps, with Root unbeaten on an excellent 75.
The Test is now evenly poised, but Australia would have hoped to do more damage to England’s fragile batting order on the third day of play.
The tourists, who resumed in glorious sunshine at 6-171, scrapped to a second-innings total of 246, with Marnus Labuschagne run out for 80 when a maiden Test century was within his reach.
England’s paltry first innings total of 67 meant the victory target looked gargantuan, but on a Headingley wicket that has become easier to bat on as the match has progressed, Root was rewarded for his patience.
The skipper faced 189 deliveries in his innings and England’s strategy was obvious, with occupation of the crease a high priority.
Joe Denly faced 155 balls for 50, while Ben Stokes, unbeaten on two not out, saw off 50 deliveries before the close of play.
Similar discipline from England’s batsmen could push the Test towards a thrilling conclusion on day four, Root’s men needing a further 203 runs to triumph, Australia needing seven wickets.
That the result is now up for grabs is a credit to England after a day two performance that could only be described as horrific.
Labuschagne started Saturday’s play on 53 not out and had an early life when England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow spilled a chance off the bowling of Stuart Broad (2-52).
Labuschagne made the most of it, too, combining with James Pattinson (20) for a vital 51-run partnership.
The pair helped push Australia’s lead past 300 runs before Jofra Archer (2-40) ended Pattinson’s stay at the crease.
Fired up after his wicket, Archer then hit Labuschagne in his helmet with a bouncer, and in the next over, Ben Stokes (3-56) dismissed Pat Cummins for six.
Labuschagne was run out pushing for a second run after a Denly fumble in the deep and when Nathan Lyon chopped on off Archer, Australia had lost its last four wickets for 31 runs.
England’s victory target was still very imposing, though, and Cummins came out breathing fire, hitting Rory Burns on the thumb with his second ball.
England may have got to lunch at 0-11 but two wickets soon fell, Josh Hazlewood (2-35) claiming the first when Burns edged to David Warner at first slip.
Jason Roy’s terrible Ashes series continued just four balls later, bowled by a Cummins pearler, and at 2-15, England looked absolutely no chance.
But Root and Denly got to work, combining for a 126-run partnership in exactly 53 overs that frustrated and annoyed Australia.
It seemed just a matter of time until Cummins dismissed Denly after the quick hit him in the head, made him play and miss and then had a big lbw shout turned down, but the England batsman fought on.
At the other end, Root was almost chanceless, thriving in the pressure-cooker environment in front of his home crowd.
Huge cheers greeted Root’s fifty, brought up with a four through the covers off Lyon, and even though he was given out lbw off Hazlewood shortly after, he immediately reviewed, with replays showing he hit the ball.
That was a frustrating moment for Australia and when Denly was hit on the pads but not given off a Lyon delivery, it went for a review, only to be denied.
Australia desperately needed a wicket before stumps and first innings hero Hazlewood finally provided it, Denly gloving a bouncer to Paine.
But with England’s two best batsmen at the crease, the hosts still have a chance.
And that is more than it could have said 24 hours ago.