Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland have shocked England late on day two of the Boxing Day Test, claiming two wickets each to have tourists staring down the barrel of an Ashes embarrassment.
Starc produced a superb double-wicket maiden over, claiming the scalps of opener Zak Crawley (5) and in-form Dawid Malan for a golden duck, to put the Poms under immense pressure early.
The pace veteran found Crawley’s outside edge as the ball landed safely in the hands of wicketkeeper Alex Carey, while the very next delivery he trapped Malan LBW – with an England review showing the ball clipping the top of off-stump.
The back-to-back wickets forced England skipper Joe Root to face Starc on a hat-trick ball with his side in trouble at 2-7.
He survived, just, with the MCG crowd bowing down to Starc as he made his way to the boundary as the leading wicket-taker of the series (13).
Debutant Scott Boland joined the double-wicket party, claiming the scalps of opener Haseem Hameed (7) and nightwatchman Jack Leach for a duck in the first over of his spell to leave the MCG in raptures.
England will start day three at 4-31 with Root (12*) and Ben Stokes (2*) out in the middle with a mountain to climb to chase down the 51-run deficiet before they can even look to build a total for the Australians to chase.
The Poms had restricted the Australians to an 82-run lead going into the second innings, after bowling the home side out for 267 runs on day two.
England’s star paceman James Anderson put on a masterclass to claim the critical wickets of Steve Smith and Marcus Harris, who top-scored for Australia with 76, after knocking over David Warner late on the first day.
He also claimed captain Pat Cummins’ wicket (21), as the Aussie tail wagged to extend the lead by more than 50 runs.
Ollie Robinson, who appeared to injure himself while attempting to catch his own delivery, and Mark Wood were Anderson’s support acts – both claiming two wickets apiece.
All-rounder Stokes (1-47) and spinner Leach (1-46) also claimed a scalp each, dismissing Travis Head (27) and Cameron Green (17), respectively.
Starc was as prolific with bat as he has been with ball, finishing unbeaten on 24 off 37 deliveries. His batting average of 58.5 is the third-highest of the series across both nations – behind only Head (62) and Warner (60).
After early dramas at England’s team hotel, the embattled tourists had put together arguably their most competitive day of the series with the ball.
Joe Root’s team was initially ordered to isolate in their rooms due to a family group member testing positive to COVID-19.
But England’s entire XI quickly returned negative rapid tests and were cleared to head to the ground and take to the field 30 minutes later than scheduled.