Panesar's five gives England a lifeline
However, the day was full of drama right until the end as England struggled in turn against a fired-up Australian attack. Brett Lee gave notice of what's to come by hitting the mid-90s (miles per hour) while Stuart Clark produced a series of stunning leg-cutters and could have claimed a couple of wickets. But it was Panesar's day as he ended third on the list of England bowlers on this ground and even achieved something Shane Warne has failed to manage: a Test five-for at the WACA.
It was no coincidence that England's best bowling of the series came when two bowlers who, for contrasting reasons, had been largely anonymous in the earlier part of the contest played important roles. Panesar's presence was felt from his seventh ball when he removed Justin Langer as Australia wobbled to lunch on 3 for 69. Harmison had already made a more significant impact than at any other time on tour by trapping Ricky Ponting leg before for just two.
The difference in England's attack with the arrival of Panesar in place of Ashley Giles extended beyond purely the wickets. His infectious spirit appeared to rub off on the team and suddenly when Andrew Flintoff looked around he wasn't scratching his head for wicket-taking options.
First-up there was swing with the new ball, which was expertly used by Matthew Hoggard as he continued his dominance of Matthew Hayden, ending an awkward opening stand of 47. Then there was the pace, and at last direction, of Harmison before the loop and bounce of Panesar.
Harmison's removal of Ponting was accompanied by huge cheers from the supporters, the level which was matched when Flintoff threw Panesar the ball 10 minutes before lunch. When his seventh delivery slipped past the edge of Langer's bat he launched into his trademark hand-slapping celebration. If his team-mates hadn't caught him Panesar would have completed a full lap of the ground.
However, for all the excitement it was only the start of the job and Australia had the perfect man for a mini-crisis. Hussey began by virtually shelving all his attacking shots - it took him 66 balls to hit a boundary - and relied on dabs to rotate the strike. Just as he and Michael Clarke were starting to increase the tempo, Harmison showed his reflexes as well as his radar were in working order by clinging onto a flat-batted pull from Clarke. But in typical style Australia counter-punched.
Before his return Andrew Symonds had spoken about wanting to play his natural game and began to support his words with deeds as he took 17 off a Panesar over. Two huge straight sixes were followed by an inside-out drive through cover. But Panesar - and to his credit Flintoff - remained calm and the decision to stick with spin paid off when Symonds edged a short ball, which Geraint Jones took at the second attempt.
The value of having an attacking spinner who rips the ball was then displayed as Adam Gilchrist lunged forward to his fourth delivery and an inside-edge looped via pad to a diving Ian Bell. England were into the tail before tea and Panesar had swathes of the WACA crowd chanting his name.
The final stages of the innings belonged to Harmison as he continued his rehabilitation with a fiery burst at the lower order. The final wicket, McGrath caught at silly point, owed everything to a poor decision as the ball came straight off his arm but the aggression was a statement from England. They are going to try and save the Ashes the same way they won them - by attacking.
That attitude carried into their reply as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook set off like a train. But attacking the new ball against the extra bounce comes with added risks and Cook paid for a loose drive as he was held at first slip, handing McGrath a much-needed wicket.
There wasn't much Bell could do about the jaffer he edged off Lee, and Paul Collingwood should have gone before the close when Warne spilled a relatively simple offering at first slip. It summed up what had been a thrilling seven hours. Adelaide was decided by an extraordinary final day; at this rate whether the Ashes are alive heading into Christmas could well be known tomorrow evening.
Sour face of the day
The moment Monty Panesar took his fifth wicket, the cameras, inevitably, sought out Duncan Fletcher in the England dressing-room. It was a picture of inscrutable misery.
Quote of the day
"I was quite pumped up, jumping around and dancing, not sure what to do," Monty Panesar after his first wicket.
Crowd moment of the day
The Barmy Army trumpeter's first note early in the opening session received a huge ovation from the England fans on the hill. Banned from the first two Tests, Bill Cooper was back and opened up his set with The Great Escape.
Call of the day
"Why don't you ring Michael Vaughan and ask him," yelled a spectator in the Lillee-Marsh Stand during a long conference between Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison.
Shots of the day
The first of Andrew Symonds' two straight sixes in the 13th over from Monty Panesar. Symonds strode down the pitch and planted the ball over the sightscreen at the Prindiville End.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo