Cricket fans and commentators were left in disbelief on Monday evening after Mitchell Starc and Scott Boland ripped through England's top order to put one hand on the Ashes urn for Australia.
England's brief resistance came crashing down in an extraordinary final hour at the MCG as Australia closed in on securing the Ashes inside just 12 days of play.
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Australia took four English scalps in the last 58 minutes of play on day two of the third Test to leave the tourists on the brink at 4-31, still requiring another 51 runs to make the hosts bat again.
Starc (2-11) narrowly missed out on a hat-trick after his stunning spell put Australia on the verge of taking an unassailable 3-0 series advantage after 13 wickets tumbled at the MCG on Monday.
After England's bowlers produced a gritty fightback to knock the hosts over for 267, their batters again had no answers to Australia's all-star pace attack.
Boland (2-1) backed up Starc's heroics by cleaning up opener Haseeb Hameed, then nightwatchman Jack Leach two balls later, to have the Melbourne crowd roaring for the Victorian debutant.
Ben Stokes had to come out and survive a painful five-minute period before stumps.
Starc dismissed opener Zak Crawley and No.3 Dawid Malan in consecutive balls to leave England in an all-too familiar position.
Joe Root (12 not out) was left to face the hat-trick ball, which the England captain just avoided edging to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
"It was absolutely bouncing...40,000 in the crowd felt like 100,000 when Starc was on the hat-trick," Australia opener Marcus Harris said.
"That was something you dream of as a kid to be a part of."
Fans and commentators flocked to social media in awe of the crazy scenes as the MCG erupted.
— Oliver Peterson (@oliverpeterson) December 27, 2021
Root not quite good enough to nick it. Starc's rhythm is scary good #Ashes
— Dan-yule Brettig 🎄 (@danbrettig) December 27, 2021
Carnage at the MCG today. Aus lost 9/206, then Eng end up 4/31 in their second dig after 11 overs …. #Ashes
— Deb Downes 🍐 (@IGsAreGR8) December 27, 2021
— Saahil Sharma (@faahil) December 27, 2021
— Tamo (@footy_work) December 27, 2021
— Bradley Green (@GreenBradley) December 27, 2021
That was an insane last hour. Nothing better in test cricket when the ball is seaming around a bit. It’s a true test for batsmen #Ashes
— John Apostolopoulos (@japosta) December 27, 2021
— Prem😍 (@rpk_2022) December 27, 2021
England fightback shut down by Aussie bowlers
Earlier, Jimmy Anderson (4-33 from 23 overs) put in one of his best performances on Australian soil to give England an outside chance of keeping the series alive heading to Sydney.
Australia's first-innings lead of 82 paled in comparison to the first two Tests when they were 278 and 237 runs ahead respectively.
The MCG pitch is already tricky to bat on so Australia could become nervous with even a modest fourth-innings chase, but it would take something to rival Stokes' Headingley classic in 2019 to make that even a possibility.
Embattled opener Harris' 76 top-scored as Australia had trouble batting in response to England's first-innings total of 185.
After entering the match playing for his spot, Harris posted the third half-century - and the first since January 2019 - of his 13-Test career.
After early dramas at England's team hotel, the tourists put together their most competitive day in the field of what has been a diabolical series.
The team were initially ordered to isolate in their rooms due to a family group member testing positive to Covid-19.
But England's entire XI quickly returned negative rapid tests and were cleared to head to the ground and take to the field 30 minutes later than scheduled.
Anderson was comfortably the pick of England's bowlers, but received solid support from Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood, who claimed two wickets each.
"I thought we did really well to stick at our task throughout the day," Anderson said.
"If we're being honest, I think in our first innings we should have got something near that (267) - it certainly felt possible on that wicket.
"We knew the last 12 overs was going to be tough with the new ball, but even so to lose four wickets was really disappointing."
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