MELBOURNE: England were closing in on the Ashes after routing Australia for 98 and cruising to a 59-run first-innings lead on the opening day of the fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
England skittled Australia for their lowest total in 133 years of Ashes Tests at the MCG and rubbed further salt into the wounds by skating to 157 without loss by stumps.
Australian cricket's Boxing Day showpiece turned into a horror show before 84,345 fans as England's bowlers had the Australians all at sea on a seaming MCG drop-in wicket to bowl them out off just 42.5 overs.
James Anderson (4-44) and Chris Tremlett (4-26) did the damage, while wicketkeeper Matt Prior took six catches as all the Australian wickets fell to catches off edges behind the wicket.
Australia slumped to their lowest MCG total in 54 Ashes Tests since their 104 in the second innings of the very first Test at the famous ground in 1877.
At stumps, England were taking it easy against a toothless Australian attack in easier pitch conditions with skipper Andrew Strauss unbeaten on 64 and Alastair Cook on 80.
England capitalised on winning the pivotal toss to consign Australia to fend on a lively green-tinged pitch and leave Ricky Ponting's team in a shambles.
Only five batsmen reached double-figures as the English pacemen revelled in the swinging conditions to destroy the Australian innings.
Australia endured another one of their familiar top order batting collapses, succumbing to 77 for six in 34 overs, but this time there was no fighting rearguard as in the other Tests of the series.
Australia were 143 for five in their first innings in Brisbane and went on to make 481; 156 for five before reaching 245 in the first innings in Adelaide and 69 for five on the way to 268 in the first innings in Perth.
Ponting's wretched Ashes series continued with another cheap dismissal for 10, while Mike Hussey suffered his first batting failure of the series with eight.
Australia were always on the backfoot from the loss of the toss as England picked up the wickets of both openers Shane Watson (5) and Phillip Hughes (16) along with Ponting and Hussey to seize the early advantage by lunch at 58 for four in the crucial match of the series locked at 1-1.
England only need to win one of the remaining two Tests to retain the Ashes.
Ponting has struggled for runs in the series with six modest scores and just one half-century in seven innings.
The skipper, playing with a fractured left little finger, this time edged a Tremlett outswinger to Graeme Swann at second slip.
England snared the big wicket of Hussey, caught behind off Anderson and the Australians crumbled after lunch, losing six wickets for 40 in 18.2 overs.
Smith pushed at a swinging Anderson delivery to be snapped up by Prior for six to initiate a procession of batsmen back to the dressing room with Michael Clarke (20), Brad Haddin (5) and Mitchell Johnson (0).
England last won a famous victory at the MCG in 1998 with Dean Headley taking 6-60 in the second innings as the tourists won by just 12 nail-biting runs.
Australia's only loss at the MCG this decade was against South Africa two years ago as the Proteas went on to win their first-ever series in Australia.