India on top, but Ponting keeps Australia alive
Australia 478 and 202 for 7 (Ponting 72, Ojha 3-57) lead India 495 (Tendulkar 214, Vijay 139, Johnson 3-105) by 185 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India is the only country in which Ricky Ponting has not won a Test as captain and despite the best efforts of Ponting the batsman, he needs something special from his bowlers to end that record on Wednesday. After a hard-fought four days, India hold the upper hand going into the final morning thanks to a fine all-round bowling effort led by Pragyan Ojha.
The hosts need only a draw in order to win the series, with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy already in their keeping, but this Test should finish in a victory. And for all the fight shown by Ponting in an innings of 72 - his third score in the seventies this series - it remained to be seen whether Australia's lead of 185 at stumps was enough.
A day that began with Sachin Tendulkar scoring his sixth Test double-century ended with some fraught moments for Australia's batsmen against spin and reverse-swing. Seven men succumbed before Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz survived until stumps, and the Australians will aim for at least 50 more runs on the final morning.
Against the spin of Ojha and Harbhajan Singh, on a cracking surface with fielders crowding around the bat, there was no room for hard hands or soft minds. But despite pushing through those tough periods, Ponting eventually fell lbw to the swing of Zaheer Khan within the final half-hour. He was followed by Tim Paine, who edged behind for 23 off a Sreesanth outswinger, and the strikes put India on top.
Australia's innings had begun positively enough as Shane Watson and Simon Katich erased India's 17-run advantage and quickly set about building a lead of their own. But the match turned India's way when Ojha trapped Watson lbw for 31 with a ball that drifted on with the arm, and Harbhajan had Katich (24) caught behind with no addition to the total.
It was a sharp take from Dhoni, who clutched the thick edge in the end of his gloves and shortly afterwards completed another slick piece of work to stump Michael Clarke off Ojha for 3. Clarke did not realise he had dragged his foot out of his ground, and slumped his head as he walked off with a miserable series aggregate of 35 from four innings.
The spinners were in control, and it took some counterattacking from Ponting to change that. He forced the field back by going over the top against Ojha, which was brave but necessary given India's rising momentum, and he found the gaps to turn the strike over in a useful 61-run partnership with Michael Hussey.
But Ojha and Harbhajan were not done yet; Ojha trapped Hussey lbw for 20 and Marcus North failed to back up his first-innings century when his ugly angled bat missed a Harbhajan offbreak and he was bowled for 3. Only with the arrival of Paine did Australia push their buffer past 150 runs, although they won't feel comfortable with anything less than 200.
After all, Tendulkar managed that many on his own over the past couple of days. He began the morning on 191 and did not take long to register his second Test double-century of the year. However, he showed that even two decades at the highest level cannot totally erase nervy moments; on 199 he nudged to cover and took off for a suicidal single, only to be rightly sent back by Dhoni.
The milestone came from his 337th delivery, with a quick single pushed to cover point off Ben Hilfenhaus, and Tendulkar raised his bat and looked skyward while taking the applause from the fans. He looked set to guide India past 500, until the debutant Peter George dragged Australia back into the contest by sparking a collapse of five wickets for nine runs.
Having batted throughout Monday, Tendulkar started to look a little tired and his vigil finished when he tried to square-drive a George inswinger and chopped the ball on to his stumps. The bowler's eyes widened as he realised he had just made Tendulkar his first Test wicket, and in years to come he might omit from the story the 214 runs the master had accumulated.
George followed up with the wicket of Zaheer, who drove a slower ball to Clarke at cover, and in between Watson had drawn a lobbed catch to midwicket from Harbhajan. Hauritz finished the job by having Dhoni caught at slip and eliciting a positive lbw decision against Sreesanth, as India were dismissed on the stroke of lunch for 495.
It was a strong fightback from Australia, but their bowlers will need to be even more incisive on the final day.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at Cricinfo