Offspinner Nathan Lyon took 4-42 as Australia reduced England to 238-9 to seize the initiative on day one of the fourth Test at Durham.
After winning the toss and electing to bat on what appeared to be a flat pitch, Alastair Cook's side succumbed from a comfortable 107-1 after lunch, paying the price for some sloppy batting against a disciplined if hardly inspired Australia attack.
With the tourists having had the better of the third Test draw in Manchester, England will have to work hard to regain the momentum that took them into a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Knowing that a draw would be enough to win the series, England's approach seemed too cautious from the off, crawling to 57-1 at lunch, Joe Root (16) Australia's one morning scalp as he feathered an edge through to Brad Haddin off Shane Watson.
Jonathan Trott had shown a welcome return to form as he raced to 49 from just 60 balls, hitting seven fours, before he offered a sharp chance to Usman Khawaja at short leg from the offspin of Nathan Lyon.
Cook reached an unhurried 50 from 153 balls in all of 216 minutes, edging a streaky four off Jackson Bird through the slip cordon to bring up a half century.
Kevin Pietersen was also looking in good nick before Lyon changed approach, coming around the wicket and getting his reward as the batsman edged to Haddin for the wicketkeeper's 21st victim of the series.
Cook then made an error of judgement as he padded up to a delivery from Bird which jagged back and caught him plum in front, with the captain not asking for a review.
England were 155-4 at tea but wickets continued to tumble in an evening session bathed in sunshine.
Ian Bell attempted to take the attack to Australia but paid the price when he went down the pitch to Lyon and failed to middle his attempted straight lofted drive, shanking it to Ryan Harris at mid off who took a good catch on the run.
England then had the worse of two DRS reviews, both of which demonstrated the much-criticised system in a good light.
With Peter Siddle bowling to Matt Prior from wide of the crease, Aleem Dar turned down an lbw shout and Australia immediately reviewed, with Hawkeye showing the batsman was definitively out.
Jonny Bairstow went 41 balls and 65 minutes without scoring a run and was on 14 when he attempted to sweep Lyon (4-42) and was given out. He had no hesitation in reviewing but the ball would just have clipped top of off stump so the decision stood.
Stuart Broad's dismissal with the total on 197 was much more clear cut as he was caught by David Warner at mid off, miscueing an attempted cut off Ryan Harris.
Graeme Swann had shown some aggression in making 13 from 18 balls, but he went for one shot too many as he attempted to hook Harris and sent the ball straight to Lyon at deep square leg, who held on comfortably.
England's last pair of Tim Bresnan (12no) and James Anderson (16no) at least gave the Durham crowd something to cheer before the close, as they took the score from 214 to 238 with some attacking stroke-play.