Peter Siddle struck once in each session, claiming the wickets of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara (63), the second of which came immediately before the first of two rain breaks which substantially aided the cause of the tourists, who had long since given up any hope of reaching their target of 393.
As well as the weather, which accounted for the best part of an hour of the afternoon session, the Sri Lanka had DRS on their side as technology came to the aid of Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera (38no) after they were on the wrong end of lbw decisions from umpire Nigel Llong.
Having injured his hamstring batting on day four, Clarke took the field from the outset, rooted to his place at first slip and no doubt hoping for an early breakthrough to give the home side much-needed momentum.
But there was little encouragement and it came as something of a surprise when Siddle tempted Jayawardene into an open-bladed prod outside off stump that travelled low to Clarke's right at first slip and was duly pouched by the hamstrung captain.
Sangakkara survived a real scare 10 minutes before the break, successfully reviewing a Llong lbw decision that had seen him given out to a shooting Shane Watson delivery angled in from around the wicket. Replays showed the ball hit him outside the line of off stump.
And it was a similar story in the fourth over after lunch when Samaraweera earned a reprieve to another Llong lbw decision, this time off Siddle, which again struck the batsman outside off.
Two overs later, DRS was called into action again, but this time there was no reprieve for Sangakkara, who was struck in line by a ball going on to hit middle stump.
The weather immediately took the players off for a break, before Angelo Mathews and Samaraweera survived two tricky mini-sessions, punctuated by a second rain interruption.
Clarke turned to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade to bowl the last over before tea, with Phillip Hughes putting on the pads and gloves behind the stumps. The move may have smacked of a measure of desperation from the Australia captain, but it was far from the least threatening over of the day.