England took another giant stride towards regaining the Ashes after Ben Stokes took 5 for 35 to put Alastair Cook's side on the brink of a huge victory over Australia in the fourth Test at Trent Bridge. The Durham all-rounder ripped through the limp batting order of Australia, who closed on 241 for 7, still 90 runs adrift of making England bat again and avoiding an innings defeat.
Earlier, Moeen Ali (38) and Stuart Broad (24 not out) helped the hosts build a lead of 331 as Mitchell Starc finished with figures of 6 for 111; a rare moment of inspiration from the tourists.
And that was where the positives ended for Australia. Although a series of dropped catches in the slips and no balls prevented England from securing victory in the evening session, they will return on day three knowing the urn is within touching distance.
Though bad light eventually saved Australia from a first defeat inside two days for 125 years, their troubles continued with another ill-disciplined batting display that again saw captain Michael Clarke (13) struggle in what could be his final Test innings.
Following one of the most remarkable days in Test history, England were looking to squeeze the life out of Australia's Ashes hopes and inflict upon the tourists their first two-day defeat since 1890.
The lead was already 214 at the start of play and instead of England being able to add to that lead, Australia made quick inroads as Starc first had Joe Root (130) caught behind before the left-armer made a mess of the stumps of Mark Wood (28). Jos Buttler's troubles in the series continued as he was emphatically bowled for just 12, before Ben Stokes (5) was caught down the leg side by Peter Nevill.
In and around the collapse, Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad put Australia to the sword, smashing Josh Hazlewood for 20 from his first over with the new ball while Nathan Lyon was also subjected to significant punishment. It took a moment of brilliance to break the damaging partnership worth 58 when Ali edged Mitchell Johnson to Steven Smith, whose full-length dive saw him take a stunning left-handed catch.
Twelve balls later, England declared on 391 for 9, 20 minutes before tea, with the lead of 331 and giving Australia a testing session to see out before the interval. Broad beat the bat of David Warner on four occasions from his second over and after the break he should have had the wicket of the New South Wales opener but Cook put down an edge at first slip when on 10.
Warner had a second life on 42 when Ian Bell failed to hold on to a one-handed effort from a miss-timed drive, while partner Chris Rogers survived too as, after Root took a fine catch, a no-ball was called after Mark Wood overstepped.
Rogers went to his half-century later with a four cut over third man but he would face only five further balls before his innings was over as Stokes caught the edge and Root took a smart catch to his left. The dismissal led to a run of three wickets in 15 balls as Warner (64) spooned the ball up into the air off Stokes, Shaun Marsh (2) edged hopelessly to Root and Smith (6) blasted Broad to Stokes at short point.
By now England were sensing victory in six sessions and though Clarke provided brief resistance, a troubling spell at the crease was ended when after Cook juggled a slip catch, Bell grabbed the ball at the third attempt.
Australia were firmly in survival mode and should have been six down as Cook clung on to a catch off Peter Nevill but replays exposed a no-ball, which denied Steven Finn his 100th Test wicket and England a timely breakthrough.
The reprieve appeared to invigorate the Australia rearguard and Adam Voges (48 not out) and the dogged Nevill (17) went to their half-century partnership from 97 balls, but the stand was broken as Stokes trapped the latter lbw with a ball which darted in as the wicket-keeper batsman offered no stroke. Stokes took his fifth wicket when Johnson (5) edged to Cook but less than an over later the umpires hauled the players off for bad light, meaning England's coronation as Ashes winners will have to wait.