Pakistan closed in on their first Test victory over Australia since 1995, finishing the third day at Headingley on 140-3 in pursuit of a target of 180.
Doug Bollinger took two late wickets to ensure the match was extended into a fourth day but Australia, who hold a 1-0 lead in the two-match series, have only a slim hope of extending their 13-Test winning streak between the two countries.
Bollinger yorked Imran Farhat and had Umar Amin caught behind for a duck in consecutive overs just before the close - a turn of events that prompted Pakistan not to ask for the extra half-hour.
Farhat, dropped by Shane Watson off Bollinger's bowling in the third over of the innings, had led the charge with a well-constructed knock of 67 from 95 balls, including nine fours.
He lost opening partner Salman Butt (13) to the new ball, Ben Hilfenhaus (1-16) finding the outside edge and Michael Clarke at second slip making no mistake.
But Farhat and Azhar Ali (47no) added 110 for the second wicket as victory with two days to spare began to look likely against an Australia bowling attack short of ideas on a flat pitch.
Left-arm seamer Bollinger, however, popped up with a double strike late in the day, although the Australians seemed bemused when stumps were drawn without Pakistan opting to claim the extra time available.
Australia had earlier looked to be slipping to an ignominious defeat when Mohammad Amir (4-86) struck three times in 17 balls in the morning session.
The teenage left-arm paceman accounted for Ponting, Michael Hussey and Marcus North as Australia slipped from an overnight position of 136-2 in their second innings to 164-5 - still six behind overall.
Ponting, resuming on 61, added just five runs before chasing a wide outswinger and getting a thin edge through to wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal.
Hussey (8) was surprised by extra bounce and gloved a low catch to Umar Akmal at second slip and North played on via the inside edge to record a five-ball duck.
Clarke and Tim Paine weathered the storm with a sixth-wicket stand of 53 either side of lunch to take their side back into credit.
But Clarke edged behind off Mohammad Asif (2-83) for 77 early in the second session and Paine (33) followed to Danish Kaneria's leg-spin to leave Australia struggling again at 246-7.
Steve Smith, however, frustrated Pakistan's hopes of finishing off the innings quickly, flaying a maiden Test half-century from 79 deliveries as the lead grew into three figures.
Mitchell Johnson and Hilfenhaus both offered good support before Smith, having dispatched Kaneria (2-74) for two consecutive sixes, was last out for 77, bowled by Umar Gul (1-80).