THE OVAL, LONDON, England -- England's attempt to regain the Ashes for the first time since 2005 remained in good shape at the end of play on the third day of the fifth and final Test, after Australia were left on 80-0 in their second innings, chasing a lead of 466.
Captain Andrew Strauss led from the front to give England a commanding lead in the decisive Ashes Test.
The stand of openers Simon Katich and Shane Watson -- who made 41 and 30 respectively -- gave Ricky Ponting's side a good start in their attempt to overcome a daunting record run chase of 546 set by England.
The Antipodean's need to match the total or bat through the final two day's play to salvage a result and prevent the urn returning to the hands of the hosts.
Meanwhile, England captain Andrew Strauss is left needing to take 10 wickets to seal a 2-1 series victory, after a superb batting display from his side -- which included a century from debutante Jonathan Trott (119) and a quickly-hit 63 from tail-ender Graeme Swann -- ensured a dominant position was attained earlier in the day.
The caliber of England's performance in the middle was such that skipper Strauss was able to declare on 373 -9 to bring to an end his team's second innings just after the tea break.
As the falling sun cast long shadows on the field of play, fiery bowling followed from James Harmison, James Anderson and Stuart Broad among others as England failed to breach the defenses of the stubborn Aussie rearguard in the form of Katich and Watson.
The spin of Swann looked increasingly the most dangerous bowling weapon, forcing a number of close leg-before-wicket shouts, but the Australian batsmen held firm to calm the fervor of the partisan crowd.
"Mexican waves" flowed around the stands, but native spectators were left in the knowledge that, despite a good performance from their side, overall victory was still a good bet rather than a certainty.
England skipper Strauss did much to maximize the chances of a home series win.
Despite his side finishing the previous day on 58-3, and facing what was widely believed to be a deteriorating pitch, the 32-year-old led from the front and delighted an expectant crowd by scoring 75 before being caught off the bowling of Marcus North.
The Oval cricket ground -- the site of the infamous defeat of England by Australia that created the "Ashes" in 1882 -- was once again a-buzz with a sense of history and Trott made sure he would feature prominently in any annals.
After surviving an opening ball scare from the pace bowling of Australian Peter Siddle, Trott went on to craft a fantastic ton and combined with his captain to push his side's lead to over 300.
Matt Prior followed the dismissal of Strauss but only made four runs before being run out, which brought all rounder Andrew Flintoff to the crease.
Crowd-favorite Flintoff was denied his dream of going out on a high in his final international game, making only 22 before hitting a sloppy slog off the bowling of North which was caught by Peter Siddle.
North was the most impressive of the Antipodean attack - returning with figures of four wickets for 98 runs over the two-day innings - crucially capturing the wicket of Chris Broad who made a quick-fire 29 runs from 35 balls before being caught by Ponting.
Swann continued to make the English tail wag with his weighty contribution, ably assisted by James Anderson, until the bowling of Ben Hilfenhaus brought an end to his time in front of the stumps.
Ponting will hope the tenacious batting, that has been the trademark of his side throughout he series, will not fail him at the last.