Kevin Pietersen scored a valuable century before Australia hit back with late wickets to halt England's recovery on day three of the third Ashes Test at Old Trafford.
Pietersen, who was passed fit just before the match in Manchester after struggling with a calf strain in the second Test at Lord’s, came to the crease with England 64-3 and proceeded to lead the hosts’ recovery with his 23rd Test century before he was eventually trapped lbw by Mitchell Starc for 113.
In so doing, Pietersen became England's all-time highest runscorer in all formats of the game.
Australia were left frustrated after having only taken five wickets over the course of a long day in the field, but the tourists remain in a strong position with a 233-run lead in a match they need to win to prevent England from retaining the Ashes.
England are still 34 runs shy of the total required for Alastair Cook's side to avoid the follow on after Australia's mammoth first-innings total of 527-7 declared with just three wickets remaining in their reply.
Pietersen was the hero of the day for the hosts after he came in at number five following Tim Bresnan's all-too-brief stint as a nightwatchman late on day two, and he shared a 46-run partnership with captain Cook (62) before joining with the in-form Ian Bell for a stand of 115 runs.
Bell was eventually dismissed for 60 as he misjudged a full delivery from Ryan Harris and was clean bowled, leaving Jonny Bairstow to partner Pietersen until he edged a wide ball from Starc behind to Shane Watson at slip.
Pietersen should have been dismissed for 62 before tea by the tourists, however, as Watson trapped him lbw with Clarke not reviewing the ‘not out’ decision which would have been overturned. Australia would be left to rue their indecision.
It was a reprieve that the 33-year-old duly capitalised upon before he eventually departed to a standing ovation after being trapped on the crease by Starc late in the final session of the day.
There was some doubt as to whether Pietersen got a very faint edge on the ball, but despite a review the decision was upheld by third umpire Kumar Dharmasena and Pietersen's magnificent innings was brought to a close.
A small mark was visible on the Hotspot technology suggesting an inside edge when the decision was reviewed in a Test dogged by further controversy over the officials' use of the DRS as Dharmasena opted to side with his on-field colleague Tony Hill.
Matt Prior, who has been out of form so far in the series, came in at number eight and was left unbeaten on six at the end of the day's play alongside Stuart Broad, who scored two late boundaries to be not out on nine.
With just Graeme Swann and James Anderson left to come for England, Starc, Siddle and Harris - who have all seven wickets between them - will be hopeful of giving their side a commanding first-innings lead in a match that Australia simply have to win.
Showers are again forecast for the two remaining days with rain arguably England's best chance of drawing the Test, but the predicted interferences did not materialise on day three as Australia's bowlers worked exceptionally hard to keep their side on top.
England lead the five-match series 2-0 after victories at Trent Bridge and Lord's with just a draw required for the hosts to retain the Ashes.