Australia advanced cautiously to 115-2 at lunch on day two of the final Ashes test against England at The Oval on Friday, trailing the hosts by 168 runs.
Resuming on 61-1, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne adopted a no-risk approach, adding only 21 in the first 12 overs before the latter was brilliantly caught by Joe Root at first slip off Mark Wood for nine.
Khawaja was unbeaten on 47 at the interval with Steve Smith on 13 to put Australia, 2-1 up in the series, in a strong position to secure their first Ashes win in England since 2001.
England, bowled out for 283 on the first day, rotated their fast bowlers in overcast conditions but failed to make the breakthrough until Wood struck.
Labuschagne edged him between wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and Root, who dived to his left and took the ball one-handed.
England captain Ben Stokes did not have the option of using his main spinner Moeen Ali, who sustained a groin injury while batting, but his quick bowlers produced disciplined spells to keep the hosts in the game.
Smith also played cautiously before unfurling two glorious straight drives for four off James Anderson and England will want to dismiss him early in the afternoon session to boost their chances of levelling the series.