Australia's hopes of regaining the Ashes are hanging by a thread after the tourists endured a frustrating day at the hands of England and the Manchester weather.
Needing to win the third Test to maintain a chance to take the urn down under, the tourists will need to take 10 England wickets on the final day of the third Test at Old Trafford, but the Monday weather forecast is dire.
Australia were 172-7 in their second innings when bad light and rain ended play at 4:25pm, a lead of 331, although their plans for a speedy declaration had already been slowed up considerably by England's pedestrian over rate.
Earlier, Australia took 80 minutes of the morning session to claim the three wickets they needed to wrap up England's first innings.
Resuming on 294-7, England's first job was to avoid the follow on and Matt Prior and Stuart Broad duly obliged, the fast bowler bringing up a 50 partnership with a classy drive off Ryan Harris through extra cover.
But moments later Broad feathered an edge to Brad Haddin off Nathan Lyon and walked off without waiting for the umpire's decision having made a useful 32.
England were 353-9 when Peter Siddle got one to jag back at Graeme Swann, which took the inside edge and forced Haddin into an excellent catch behind the stumps.
James Anderson joined Prior and the pair frustrated Australia for more than half an hour before a lifter from Siddle took Prior's outside edge high on the bat and popped up to David Warner at mid off, giving Siddle figures of 4-63.
Australia's batsmen - with Warner promoted to opener in place of Shane Watson - began their innings with a lead of 159.
The openers had put on just 23 when Chris Rogers edged a Broad delivery to Prior as he attempted to guide the ball down to third man and Australia went into lunch at 24-1.
The afternoon was notable for Australia's attempts to put on quick runs and England's equally competitive efforts to bowl slow overs.
David Warner and Usman Khawaja had advanced the score to 74 when Warner (41) attempted to hook Tim Bresnan and Joe Root took an excellent low catch diving forward in the deep.
Given the history between the pair, Root's celebrations were understandable, as was the noisy reaction of the Old Trafford crowd.
Usman Khawaja was bowled round his legs for 24 by a turning delivery from Graeme Swann, while Watson attempted to loft Bresnan to third man, presumably forgetting that Kevin Pietersen was stationed on the rope to take a simple catch.
Steve Smith smashed two straight sixes and was on 19 from 19 balls when he was run out by his captain Michael Clarke with the score on 133, but wickets had largely become immaterial by then.
Tell that to James Anderson, whose delight at finally claiming one on his own ground after plenty of pre-match hype was palpable - Haddin his victim as the wicketkeeper scooped an attempted slog to Stuart Broad.
Mitchell Starc quickly gave Anderson his second wicket with a flick to Swann at mid off and moments later the umpires took the players off for bad light, much to Clarke's annoyance.
But the batsmen no longer have a say in the matter and it was immaterial half an hour later as the long-threatened rain set in.