England grabbed the upper hand on day two at Edgbaston as its batsmen ground their way towards Australia's first innings 284, withstanding a late charge from the tourists that threatened to derail its momentum.
It was a largely dour day of Test cricket but England will be happy to have made it to stumps just four wickets down with 267 runs on the board as Joe Root scored a half century and rookie Rory Burns registered his maiden ton in the five-day format.
The opener finished unbeaten on 125 to ensure his team was just 17 runs behind the Aussies with plenty of wickets left in the shed.
The Poms will be particularly satisfied they avoided a middle order collapse when an unexpected ball change brought the game to life. Burns and Joe Denly (18) were cruising after tea but that all changed when the umpires called for a replacement ball because the one the Aussies were using had been banged out of shape.
The new pill worked wonders for Australia's bowlers and James Pattinson and Pat Cummins looked ominous during the day's most exciting passage of play. Pattinson hooped an outswinger past Denly's outside edge then delivered an inswinger to trap him LBW.
Up the other end, Burns — who after a shaky start looked more comfortable once he passed 50 — was in all sorts against Cummins, who also had the replacement six-stitcher singing. In one over the fast bowler beat Burns' bat four times but somehow the England opener survived.
Jos Buttler wasn't so fortunate as he gave Cummins his first wicket of the innings by edging the New South Welshman to Cameron Bancroft at third slip for five and England had slipped to 4/194. The Aussies thought they had a sniff but Burns and Ben Stokes (38 not out) had other ideas.
England has been yearning for an opener capable of filling the void left by legend Alastair Cook after his retirement last year and while it's too early to tell if Burns is that man, he put up a strong case to be given an extended run at international level as he reached three figures for the first time in his eighth Test.
It wasn't his finest knock by any means. The awkward-looking left-hander scratched and nudged his way around in the opening session as his outside edge saw more action than any area around the middle of his bat.
Runs flowed streakily through third man as he and Root struggled to move the scoreboard along with any great pace or authority. They were brought together after Jason Roy edged Pattinson into the safe hands of Steve Smith for 10 but that was to be the only joy Australia had before lunch as England trudged to the break at 1/71.
The visiting bowlers were disciplined, rarely sending down anything loose and Nathan Lyon extracted significant turn, but the pitch was slow and England's batsmen had enough time to adjust to what was in front of them.
Root survived a scare when he was given out caught behind off Pattinson but he reviewed the decision and replays showed the ball missed his bat and clipped the stumps — only for the off bail to stay in its groove.
Pattinson was in disbelief, unable to comprehend how he was being denied another wicket.
Root was at it again when given out LBW to Peter Siddle, challenging Aleem Dar's on-field call because he knew he'd inside edged the ball before it crashed into his pad.
But the England skipper eventually had to go for 57 when he struck a straight drive in the air, only for Siddle to stick his right arm out and take a splendid one-handed catch in his follow-through.
Denly looked assured and he helped guided England to 2/170 at tea before he was undone by the change of ball and Buttler soon followed but all the while Burns stood tall. The 28-year-old struggled against Lyon but despite his numerous nervy moments he stuck to his game plan and played within his limits.
He was stuck in the 90s for what seemed like an eternity — more than 30 balls in fact — before he finally got off 99 with a quick single after nurdling Australia's off-spinner into the leg side.
Burns was ecstatic, bending down like Smith did on day one as he almost looked overwhelmed by the enormity of what he achieved. And to his credit, he didn't stop there, sticking it out until the end of play to ensure England was in prime position to push for a first-innings lead on Saturday.
The crowd was in full voice for the final half-hour of play as the clouds returned and Australia threatened with the second new ball. The tension levels lifted but so did Stokes, who played a vital innings to steady the ship and ensure no further damage was done after Buttler's wicket.