Australia lead by 296 going into day four of the ICC World Test Championship Final, but counterattacking half-centuries from Ajinkya Rahane and Shardul Thakur were followed by an excellent bowling effort to leave India with a sliver of hope after a fascinating day’s play.
Marnus Labuschagne and Cameron Green were unbeaten out in the middle at the close, with Australia set to resume on 123/4 and with all results still possible.
Wickets with the new ball were key for India if they were to have any chance of being left with a chaseable target on days four and five.
And they picked up a first scalp when Mohammed Siraj lured David Warner into a prod that edged the ball behind, rousing Marnus Labuschagne from his slumber on the Australian balcony.
Usman Khawaja and Labuschagne survived a stern test from Siraj and Shami before tea, but the opener fell victim to his now typical mode of dismissal in England, edging through to the keeper off the bowling of Umesh Yadav for 13.
Khawaja has now been out edging to the keeper in seven of his last eight knocks in English conditions, with the one exception being a nick through to the slips, and he now averages just 17.78 in seven Tests in England.
The prized scalp of Steve Smith was the next to fall, with India’s nemesis going after Ravindra Jadeja one time too many and skying an ugly shot up into the London sky. Shardul held on well to the catch.
And Smith’s fellow first-innings centurion Travis Head also failed to double up in the match, worked over well by a combination of short-pitched bowling into the body and some tempting lengths from Jadeja.
And it was the spinner who struck to remove the in-form Head and leave Australia four down.
That’s how it finished at the close, with Green and Labuschagne surviving some final-over scares to see it through to stumps.
The first half of the day saw impressive contributions from Ajinkya Rahane (89) and Shardul Thakur (51) to help India reach a total of 296 in their first innings, avoiding the follow-on after lunch on day three but handing Australia a 173-run lead going into their second dig.
Rahane's 89 was full of grit and class, but he was denied a ton on his return to the Test team when Cameron Green held on to a sensational catch at gully, making amends for a bad drop off the same bowler Pat Cummins earlier in the day.
Thakur made it to three half-centuries in three innings at The Oval, departing to Green for a lively 51.
The all-rounder's milestone knock puts him elite company as one of just three players in the game's history to score three consecutive scores of 50 or more at the south London ground.
Earlier, it had looked like Australia were set to carry on where they left off from day two, with Scott Boland striking with just the second delivery of Friday’s first session.
The Aussie seamer nipped one back off a probing length that cleaned up KS Bharat and prompted some premature talk about the follow-on in some corners of The Oval.
With Cummins bowling superbly and aggressively at the Pavilion end, striking both Rahane and Thakur repeatedly, India were under the pump.
But Rahane responded with some aggression of his own, forcing the field back and looking to up the run rate throughout the first hour. And Thakur followed suit after drinks as India attempted to get back into contention.
It could have been a very different picture at lunch had Australia held onto their chances, with Green and Warner putting down Shardul and Rahane respectively, both off Cummins' bowling.
And Cummins was left to rue his front foot once again, as a no ball denied him the wicket of Shardul, after the Australian skipper had made the same error to deny him the scalp of Rahane on Thursday evening.
After the century stand was ended through Green’s phenomenal catch, Australia quickly bagged two more when Cummins cleaned up Umesh and Green had Shardul caught behind.
And the Aussies thought they had wrapped the innings up soon after, only for Mohammed Siraj to survive an lbw shout on review, forcing the Aussie openers to re-emerge having already left the field of play.
But India’s tail didn't last much longer, with Mitchell Starc removing Mohammed Shami as India were bowled out for 296.
Australia have the upper hand with two days of the Test remaining, but all results are still possible in this WTC Final.