(CNN) -- Shane Watson put Australia in a strong position to claim an emphatic victory over Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test match at stumps on day three.
Australia's top order had wobbled in their second innings at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after captain Ricky Ponting (12), Simon Katich (two) and Michael Hussey (four) all fell cheaply.
Fast bowler Mohammad Asif got the early breakthrough for Pakistan when he had Katich, who had top scored in Australia's first innings total of 454 for four declared, caught behind by wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who took an athletic two-handed catch diving to his left in front of first slip.
Teenage paceman Mohammad Aamer then captured the prize wicket of Australian captain Ponting who was caught by Salman Butt at deep square leg attempting to pull a short ball.
Nine balls later Aamer (two for 43) removed Hussey but opener Watson defied the Pakistan attack as he reached an unbeaten 64 to help Australia reach 111 for three - a huge lead of 307 - at the close.
Earlier in the day, Australia's fast bowlers ruthlessly made light work of Pakistan's tail end, claiming five wickets after lunch to end their first innings for 258.
Doug Bollinger was the pick of the attack as he removed the stubborn nightwatchman Aamer (15) and took the wickets of Kamran Akmal (12) and Abdur Rauf (three) to finish with three for 50.
Bollinger used a fuller length to remove Akmal and Rauf, both caught by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin while attempting to push forward.
Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson rounded off the second session dominance as they accounted for Asif and Saeed Ajmal.
Only half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq (65 not out) and the impressive Umar Akmal (51) allowed Pakistan to avoid the follow-on.
Bollinger later backed Watson to go on a get a maiden Test hundred after just missing out in the first innings when he fell seven runs short of a century.
"He'll sleep pretty sound, some of the boys are tired, we've been working hard," Bollinger told reporters in the post-match press conference
"But I think he'll be all right. Shane looks really sharp there and I think he really wants a hundred like most of us."