Opener Ben Duckett led England's response on day two of the second men's Ashes Test at Lord's with a fine 98 as the hosts’ reached 278/4 in 61 overs at stumps and trail Australia by just 138 runs on Thursday.
On a day where the action was chaotic and swung like a pendulum, Australia were bowled out for 416, with premier batter Steve Smith making 110, his 32nd Test hundred. Pacers Josh Tongue and Ollie Robinson took three wickets each as Australia lost their last five wickets for 65 runs.
In reply, England’s opening pair of Duckett and Zak Crawley shared a 91-run opening stand, also England’s highest partnership from its openers in an Ashes Test since 2010/11.
But a stunning collapse of three wickets (Duckett, Ollie Pope and Joe Root) for 34 runs in 7.3 overs saw Australia fightback in the match despite losing Nathan Lyon to right calf injury in the 37th over.
But England captain Ben Stokes (17 not out) and Harry Brook (45 not out) ensured England reached stumps unscathed through their unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 56 runs off 94 balls. For day three, Stokes, Brook and Jonny Bairstow hold the key for England to take control of the match.
Australia had resumed on 339/5 after a day one that they had largely dominated, but lost Alex Carey early in proceedings as Stuart Broad got the new ball to seam into the back pad, with Carey given out for 22 on review.
Smith, resuming from 85 not out, made history earlier in the day as he brought up his 32nd Test century, reaching that number in fewer innings than any player in Test history. Australia's tail didn't wag anything like as much as they would have hoped as England made merry with second new ball, with only Pat Cummins (22 not out) reaching double figures out of the final four.
James Anderson finally picked up the wicket he deserved for his toil on day one, drawing Mitchell Starc (6) into an edge through to Bairstow. After Smith's knock came to an end and Australia crossed 400, Robinson finished off the tail as he accounted for both Lyon (7) and Josh Hazlewood (4).
Crawley and Duckett made a solid start to England's reply and saw the hosts' reach lunch without any loss. Post lunch, the duo solidified their stand, till Lyon came over to have Crawley stumped for 48, denying him a chance to score what would have been his 10th Test half-century.
Duckett then shared a 97-run partnership for the second wicket with Pope, able to bat despite his shoulder problem, put on a tidy 42 to leave England in a superb position at team on 188/1 and with Australia a bowler light due to Lyon’s injury.
But the introduction of Cameron Green to the attack and a switch to consistent short-pitched bowling prompted an extraordinary hour of play during the evening session. Pope was first to fall, holing out off Green to backward square.
Soon, Duckett fell into the same trap, departing just two runs short of a century. The frustrated opener was furious with himself for missing out on the milestone, but it didn't stop England taking on the short ball.
Root survived when he was dismissed by a Green no-ball at the start of his stay, but his frenetic 10-run effort came to a close not long after when Smith was adjudged to have cleanly caught a catch off Starc.
It was Stokes who calmed things down and slowed the scoring rate, opting against taking on the short-pitched barrage and finishing the day unbeaten with Brook by his side, setting the stage for a brilliantly poised day three's play.
Brief Scores: England 278/4 in 61 overs (Ben Duckett 98, Zak Crawley 48; Nathan Lyon 1/35) trail Australia 416 in 100.4 overs (Steve Smith 110, Travis Head 77; Josh Tongue 3/98, Ollie Robinson 3/100) by 138 runs.