BRISBANE: England are on course to salvage the opening Ashes Test after a dominant batting display to overturn a massive innings deficit into a mounting lead on the fourth day at the Gabba on Sunday.
England surged back after Saturday's fruitless third day in the field to trail by 221 runs and hit the front on the back of a ground record stand between skipper Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.
At the close, the Ashes holders, cheered on by their chanting Barmy Army fans, were 309 for one with Alastair Cook unconquered on 132 and Jonathan Trott on 54 to hold an overall lead of 88 runs.
Strauss and Cook combined for the highest English partnership for any wicket at the Gabba of 188 runs, eclipsing the previous best of 160 between Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe in 1994.
Strauss was the only wicket to fall on the day when he came down the pitch and was deceived by offspinner Marcus North to be stumped by Brad Haddin for 110.
The English skipper scored his 19th Test hundred and fourth against Australia off 224 balls with 15 fours, some of them exquisite drives to the boundary ropes.
Cook chimed in with his 14th Test century and second against Australia to ram home the advantage over the home attack and was closing in on Ian Botham's highest score of 138 at the Gabba for England.
England, from looking in peril of going one down in the series, had dramatically turned things around to have an outside chance of being the only team who could win on Monday's final day.
England's cause was abetted by three dropped catches in a frustrating day for Australian skipper Ricky Ponting.
Wicketless paceman Mitchell Johnson added to his unhappy Test by putting down Strauss just before lunch with a tough but catchable overhead chance at mid-off when the English skipper was on 69.
Cook was dropped on 103 in a tough tumbling chance by Peter Siddle at fine leg off Ben Hilfenhaus and then it was Trott who was given a life on 34 when Michael Clarke couldn't hold on to a diving left-handed chance at point.
Australia have earned a reputation since the retirement of champion bowlers Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 2007 of being unable to finish off teams, the latest coming in the one-wicket loss to India at Mohali last month.
The home side's unproductive day in the field coming off a massive innings advantage yet again underlined how much the once-mighty Australians have come back to the field in world cricket after the end of their golden era.