Sri Lanka self-destructed on day three at the Sydney Cricket Ground when a breakthrough test win in Australia was in the offing.
The tourists overcame a brilliant Matt Wade century to be well positioned to set Australia a challenging fourth innings chase and push for a massive boilover in the third test. But they suffered an embarrassing second-innings capitulation in the final session to be 225 for seven at stumps.
Much is needed from remaining batsman Dinesh Chandimal if the Sri Lankans are to make something of their lead of 87.
A series sweep for Australia and a winning farewell for retiring great Mike Hussey now appear a simple matter of time.
The Australians were under pressure at tea despite declaring at 432 for nine half an hour before lunch for a first-innings lead of 138. Sri Lankan batsmen Mahela Jayawardene (60) and Dimuth Karunaratne (85) played brilliantly to combine for 108, virtually eroding the deficit.
But 132 for one quickly became 178 for six. Thilan Samaraweera and Lahiru Thirimanne were the chief culprits, playing unforgivable shots before a disastrous run-out claimed Angelo Mathews.
When skipper Jayawardene was caught behind off Peter Siddle, hope was running out for a brave but ultimately irresponsible Sri Lanka.
Jayawardene, playing his final match as captain, was justifiably disgusted with the loose shots played by his new partners after opener Karunaratne edged behind off Bird to fall 15 short of a maiden hundred.
If Australia go on to win, it will have less to do with their debatable tactics and more to do with the outstanding 102 not out from Wade - his first century on home soil.Wade looked certain to run out of partners, as No11 Jackson Bird arrived at the crease when the diminutive left-hander still needed 30 to reach the milestone.
Bird left Mitchell Johnson stranded in the 90s in the second test but played a fine support role to cancer-survivor Wade, who celebrated his milestone in front of a pink crowd on Jane McGrath Day, she being the wife of Australian great Glenn and who lost her battle with cancer in 2008.