Tim Paine had a tough afternoon in the field but Josh Hazlewood improved his mood by taking three key wickets as England and Australia played out a gripping day of Test cricket that took a late twist in the visitors' favour.
Joe Root and Rory Burns dominated for most of the day, patiently combining for a 141-run third-wicket partnership but England collapsed, losing 3/30 before the players left the field for bad light with the hosts at 5/200, still 297 runs behind Australia on the first innings.
Hazlewood did all the damage at the back end of the evening session, starting the rot by having Burns caught by Steve Smith at second slip for 81 when the left-hander tried to defend a ball around off stump that moved away off the seam and caught the outside edge.
Nine runs later and it was Root's turn to go. The England captain was trapped plumb in front of his stumps and given out LBW for 71 as he once again failed to convert a half century into a ton.
Nobody doubts his quality but a consistent inability to push on to three figures is what's holding Root back from being classed among the world's best batsmen. He now has 44 fifties but just 16 centuries – a conversion rate that simply doesn't cut it when compared to the likes of Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson.
That saw England go from 2/166 to 4/175 and while Jason Roy showed signs of finding form it wasn't long before he became another Hazlewood victim. Before this Test, Roy had scored just 57 runs in six innings opening the batting so was dropped down the order to No. 4 at Old Trafford in a bid to see if that would bring the best out of him.
He looked better than he has against the new ball this series but was still only able to manage scoring 22 before Hazlewood bowled him with a beauty, nipping a ball back past his inside edge and clattering into his stumps.
Roy threw his head back and wore a pained expression as he walked off, knowing his Test future is hanging in the balance.
It won't be any comfort to the struggling batsman but Hazlewood said after play he's bowling as well as he ever has.
"I've been consistent in the last two-and-a-half Tests, the body feels fresh," he said. "I feel like I made a few changes after my last injury and everything is in the right line.
"It's not easy but if I get it in the right line everything is off stump or just outside it. I am bowling a lot of deliveries at off stump and on the pads due to my action.
"It's only a little change but I have worked hard on it since March, April and the end of May. I did some good work at home and reaping the benefits now.
"Obviously we're pretty happy with where we're at, I think the weather is pretty good for the next two days – two long days of cricket, 98 overs both days (to go).
"Plenty of cricket left so we'll concentrate on this first innings and get the next five wickets fist tomorrow."
The umpires took the players off when not even the floodlights could overpower the darkness being brought over Old Trafford by grey clouds, with Ben Stokes not out on seven and Jonny Bairstow unbeaten on two.
The first session was wiped out as the rain tumbled down in Manchester but the Aussies started strongly when they got onto the ground as Hazlewood nicked off nightwatchman Craig Overton in the second over of the day, caught by Smith at slip.
But then Root and Burns knuckled down, showing the same sort of application Root and Joe Denly did in the second innings at Headingley. He may not always look pretty but at least Burns was effective, constructing another admirable knock after posting a century in Birmingham and 53 at Lord's.
The Aussies have had success against Burns with short stuff but he looked much more comfortable handling bouncers in this innings. The quicks perhaps focused too much on hitting the deck halfway down instead of challenging Burns' front foot play, and he often made them pay by cutting and forcing off the back foot if they got too wide.
Root was far from his best but gutsed out a gritty innings. He struggled against Nathan Lyon, particularly when he landed balls in the rough outside off stump, and was tested by an outstanding spell by Pat Cummins after tea.
Patience was the order of the day as the runs rarely flowed quickly, both Root and Burns finishing with strike rates under 44.
Lyon found it difficult to get into a rhythm, often releasing the pressure valve with short balls. In his first match of the series, Mitchell Starc was the same, mixing up cracking deliveries with too much loose stuff as he failed to take a wicket and was Australia's most expensive bowler, conceding 3.72 runs an over.
Cummins was outstanding as he gave Root a serious working over after tea, and Hazlewood's late bag had as much to do with that as it did his own prowess. Cummins beat the edge countless times, hit Root on the wrist and gloves and should have had a wicket when Paine and David Warner watched a nick sail between them in the slips cordon because each man thought the other was going to make a play for it.
It was definitely Paine's catch and he made another blunder soon after, calling for a review for a Cummins LBW shout to Root when the ball hit the skipper outside the line of off stump and was going on to miss the stumps.
Paine's had a terrible series when it comes to using the DRS, having failed to have any of his challenges go in his favour.