England finally got the pink ball to swing on the third night of the second Ashes Test on Monday but it still looked too little, too late and Australia will go into day four on 53 for four with a lead of 268 runs.
Australia skipper Steve Smith elected not to enforce the follow-on after the tourists were dismissed for 227, a first-innings deficit of 215, and probably rued his decision as England attacked under the Adelaide Oval lights.
James Anderson led the way with the wickets of Cameron Bancroft (four) and Usman Khawaja (20) while Chris Woakes removed David Warner with a delivery that moved off the seam and got an edge to fly to Joe Root in the slips.
That the usually free-scoring Warner took 60 balls to eke out 14 runs was an indication of how tough the conditions were and captain could have followed vice-captain in the following over when Smith was given out lbw for a three-ball duck.
For the third time in two days, however, Anderson was denied an lbw decision by the DRS system with tracking suggesting the ball had pitched fractionally outside leg.
Smith only survived to make six runs, though, before he was given out lbw to Woakes and this time there was to be no reprieve from the technology.
“We’ve pushed Australia back tonight,” Woakes said. “Australia are obviously still ahead in the game but it was important that we bowled well, showed some character and pushed them back.”
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon survived to the end of the day and will resume with Peter Handscomb. Both were three not out.
“We know the night session is toughest to bat, as we saw tonight,” Starc said.
“With a lead of 260 going into the day session, we’re in the drivers’ seat. There’s no reason why we can’t build a really big lead and then have England on the ropes in the night session.”
Lyon had earlier taken 4-60 as he and the pace trio of Pat Cummins, Starc and Josh Hazlewood combined to humble England’s top order and build on the 442-8 declared the hosts accumulated in their first innings.
England, 1-0 down in the five-match series after a 10-wicket defeat in Brisbane, had resumed on 29-1 only to lose James Vince for two in the second over.
Desperate for a decent partnership to bolster the top order, expectations were high when Root came out to join Alastair Cook in the middle.
Root made just nine before he got a thick edge to a Cummins delivery, however, and Cook departed for 37 prodding at a Lyon tweaker with Smith gobbling up the catch at first slip.
Dawid Malan got a life when he successfully referred an lbw decision but made his exit for 19 when he got a bit of glove on another snorter from Cummins soon after England had reached the hundred mark.
Woakes and debutant seamer Craig Overton (41 not out) put on 66 for the eighth wicket but once the former departed for 36, the writing was on the wall.
Off-spinner Lyon had removed Moeen Ali for 25 with a brilliant leaping catch off his own bowling and Starc followed suit to remove Jonny Bairstow (21) and Woakes, making it three caught and bowleds in a row.