Two rain breaks and only one wicket in the middle session means Australia will have to summon up a special effort after tea to win the first Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart.
Despite losing anchor Kumar Sangakkara (63 from 227 deliveries) to Peter Siddle (2-25) shortly after lunch, the plucky Sri Lankans continued to defy Australia's depleted attack and a misbehaving Bellerive pitch to reach tea on 4-186.
With any chance of Sri Lanka reaching its 393-run victory target now out of the question, Australia needs to somehow conjure a further six wickets in 36 remaining overs if it is to claim the win that seemed a virtual fait accompli when the visitors limped to stumps on 2-65 yesterday.
If Australia fails to close out the match it will be a cruel blow given the nature of South Africa's dogged final day in Adelaide last month and in the wake of injuries to skipper Michael Clarke and strike bowler Ben Hilfenhaus.
In a sign of Michael Clarke's growing desperation for a wicket, he took the unprecedented step of handing wicketkeeper Matthew Wade the ball for the final over before tea, albeit to no avail, even though Wade bowled a maiden.
With Thilan Samaraweera (38 not out) the latest Sri Lankan veteran to lead the rear-guard action and captain-in-waiting Angelo Mathews (11 not out) at the other end, the visitors will be growing increasingly confident of securing a morale-boosting draw in the series opener.
Mathews was struck a vicious blow on the elbow from a rising delivery from Mitchell Starc (1-46), with a long delay ensuing as the Sri Lankan No. 6 tried to regain his composure as well as the feeling in his left arm.
He hooked at and missed the next ball from Starc another short offering from around the wicket but survived the over and made it to the break.
Shortly after lunch, Samaraweera joined his partner Sangakkara in having an lbw decision overturned the DRS showing both players were hit outside the line of off stump despite being given out by umpire Nigel Llong.
In both instances, variable bounce was at play and given the appearance to the naked eye, umpire Llong can hardly be blamed for raising his finger.
His next decision was found to be perfect, however, Sangakkara again calling for a review from the last ball of the sixth over after lunch but this time more in hope than with any kind of realistic chance of survival.
Siddle caught him at shin height with another delivery that may have stayed down slightly, but this time Hawkeye had it cannoning into middle stump, half-way up.
Continuing to look the most likely to secure the wickets required for an Australian win, Siddle also found himself at the centre of a smouldering ball tampering scandal that threatens to overshadow the final day's play.Sri Lanka has not lodged a formal complaint against the Victorian but reports suggest they have informed match referee Chris Broad of their suspicions Siddle was picking at the seam during the first innings.
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