James Anderson
Anderson managed to take five wickets for 43 runs on the penultimate day of the second Test Getty Images

England kept their hopes of levelling the Ashes series very much alive after Joe Root's half century denied Australia to set up a thrilling climax final day of the second Test at Adelaide.

In pursuit of a record 354 to win, the tourists closed on 176 for 4 with captain Root unbeaten on 67. Steve Smith's side toiled in the field after being dismissed for just 138 in their second innings, as his decision not to enforce the follow-on on day three threatens to come back to haunt him.

James Anderson and Chris Woakes combined superbly to bowl out the hosts inside the opening session of the day, with England's all-time wicket taker finishing with figures of five for 43.

Two wickets for Mitchell Starc appeared to have built the foundations for an Australian victory but Root and Dawid Malan [29] put on 78 for the fourth wicket before the latter was bowled by from Pat Cummins' penultimate over of the day.

Another 178 runs are required for England to achieve their highest fourth innings total to win a Test in their history but they require plenty of fortune after surviving several near-misses on a thrilling fourth day.

After affording themselves faint hope with an encouraging start with the ball on the third day, England took perhaps slightly longer than they wanted to obliterate Australia, who had added 18 runs to their overnight score of 53 for the loss of four before Anderson got the ball rolling.

The Lancastrian made light work of nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (14), who was caught by Stuart Broad at mid-off, before Peter Handscomb (12) was caught brilliantly at third slip by David Malan.

Australia lasted just under an hour without any further losses before Woakes got in on the action, his full delivery tempting Tim Paine to send one into the sky, allowing debutant Craig Overton to take a diving catch.

Paine's departure allowed Shaun Marsh to enter the fray, and the Western Warriors star seemed to be forming a solid partnership with Starc. But his time at the crease was ended in rather abrupt but expert fashion by Woakes, whose delivery managed to sneak through the gate and dismiss Marsh for 19.

Marsh's misery was compounded just 10 minutes later when Anderson sent Starc (20) packing and achieved his first five-for Down Under. His teasing delivery tempted Starc to slice one high, and Moeen Ali did the rest. Overton rounded off a delightful 150-minute session for the tourists when he found Josh Hazlewood's edge, giving Malan a relatively easy catch at gully as England were set 354 to square the series.

Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman couldn't initially maintain the momentum generated by England's bowlers, both doing their level best to deal with a barrage of dangerous balls from Hazlewood and Starc, who were quick to find their groove with the new cherry.

The pair trudged their way through to the 19th over before Lyon, arguably the bowler of the series so far, struck timely for his country. His teasing delivery dismissed Cook (16) for lbw, though the former England captain's fate had to be decided by a review after he survived an initial appeal.

Stoneman (36) soon followed Cook to the stands, his edge to gully off the bowling of Starc caught well by Usman Khawaja. His dismissal left England rocking, though James Vince and Root managed to make it to dinner with their wickets intact.

England's captain provided a commanding if not overly adventurous presence at the crease after the break, nabbing quick singles off the bowling of Lyon to re-establish his side's foothold in the contest.

For all of Root's strong work, Vince, who had started his innings well, threatened to traipse all over it after chasing a full delivery from Starc and inevitably being caught by Handscomb.

The visitors' hopes of a miraculous victory were plunged into even further doubt as Vince plodded off to the stands, but Root and Malan curtailed any Aussie encouragement with some conservative batting. They did have to survive some major scares from the likes of Cummins, who eventually found a way past Malan (29), smashing into the top of off stump with a glorious ball he had threatened to deliver throughout the session.

Woakes was installed as nightwatchman as he and Root, who survived a major LBW appeal to finish the day on 67 not out - Smith now has no reviews to play with, much to the delight of the Barmy Army - guided England to 167 for the loss of four with a sizeable 178 runs needed to secure what looked to be a near-impossible victory just 36 hours ago.

Joe Root
Root has more than made up for his decision to bowl first Getty Images