Ian Bell hit an unbeaten century as England recovered from a stuttering start to reach 234-5 at stumps on the third day of the fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Durham ICG.
Bell (105 not out) continued his rich vein of form with another classy innings, putting on a fourth-wicket stand of 106 with Kevin Pietersen to help to hosts to a lead of 202 in their second innings.
Australia had earlier been bowled out for 270 to gain a first-innings advantage of just 32, and then put the pressure on by taking three quick wickets through Ryan Harris.
But Pietersen and Bell steadied the ship and Jonny Bairstow got in on the act with a useful contribution of 28 before he was caught behind off Nathan Lyon.
Pietersen made 44 before misjudging his attempt to flick Lyon through the leg side and sending a leading edge into the hands of Chris Rogers.
Bell made no such errors during a knock of great timing and composure which has left England in control with the centurion and nightwatchman Tim Bresnan (4no) set to resume on Monday.
Things looked bleaker earlier on when Harris, fresh off contributing some valuable runs with the bat, clipped back the off-stump of Joe Root (2) after beating the Yorkshireman all ends up with a wonderful delivery.
Harris (3-74) then had Alastair Cook (22) and Jonathan Trott (23) caught behind by Brad Haddin after lunch, the former carelessly chasing a wide delivery and the latter being strangled down the leg side for the second time in three innings.
The fourth-wicket pair came together with the scoreboard reading 49-3 but Australia could not capitalise on the situation, their cause not being helped by an apparent groin injury to all-rounder Shane Watson.
Australia had started the day just 16 runs behind with five wickets still in hand, but could only turn that into a narrow lead before running out of batsmen.
Rogers (110) and Haddin (13) were prevented from building the big partnership they had hoped for as Graeme Swann accounted for both before the pacemen polished off the tail, with Stuart Broad completing a five-wicket haul.
England hoped the new ball would allow them to dismantle Australia's lower order, but Swann gave them a huge bonus by removing the key duo before it could even be taken.
Haddin was the first to fall as Swann's spin trapped him on his pads well back in his crease, the wicket-keeper opting to burn a fruitless review which confirmed his departure.
Swann struck again in the final over before the new ball was taken as Prior dived forward to gather a looping catch off overnight centurion Rogers' pad - a review revealing the ball had brushed the left-hander's glove on the way through.
The seamers took centre stage after the ball change, although 4.3 overs passed before Peter Siddle (5) edged James Anderson low to Cook at first slip.
Lyon (4) fell lbw to Anderson but Harris opened up his arms to blast a rapid-fire 28 before being caught plumb lbw by Broad (5-71), a clear-cut decision which still had to be reviewed by England.