Australia took a giant step towards restoring some respectability after taking a tight grip of the fifth Ashes Test after leaving the England batting order in tatters on day two at The Oval. Alastair Cook's side were reduced to 107 for 8 as Mitchell Marsh took 3 for 18, while there were two each for Nathan Lyon and the returning Peter Siddle, to give the tourists a lead of 374 at the close and complete control of the final game of the five-match series.
Earlier, Steven Smith made 143 and there were cameos from Adam Voges (76) and Mitchell Starc (59) before Australia were dismissed for 481 as England continued to be put to the sword. But when faced with what was increasingly looking like a flat wicket in south London, the newly-crowned Ashes winners capitulated in another collapse during his fluctuating series.
England lost eight wickets for 62 runs with Adam Lyth making just 19 to all-but ensure he will be replaced at the end of the series ahead of the matches in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan and the tour to South Africa in the winter. Jos Buttler (1) and Ben Stokes' (15) problems with the bat also continued amid a dismal performance which works to dampen their imminent coronation and in all likelihood ensures Australia will add some pride to a harrowing series.
Having belatedly produced a credible batting display, Australia's batsman were looking to fill their boots and build a handsome first innings score to take a grip of the final Test. Voges had ended day one in resilient mood but he went on the offensive, cutting a four through the slips to go his half century and then helping the away side past 300.
Voges was eventually dismissed after being trapped plum lbw by Stokes and England should have had partner Smith out on 92 from the next ball from Steven Finn but the Middlesex seamer overstepped and was denied his 100th test wicket. Marsh (3) would supply Finn with the landmark scalp however as his miserable tour with the bat continued.
Having already had a life, Smith went to his second century of the series from 197 balls and soon went past 500 runs in the series. The wickets though continued to fall around him with Peter Nevill (18) the latest victim with a horrid swipe off Ali as the ball caught his glove and was caught by Jos Buttler. Ali struck two ball later when he brilliantly bowled Mitchell Johnson (0).
The string of wickets failed could not be sustained after lunch as Starc helped take Australia beyond 400 as he took advantage of England's attacking field with 10 boundaries, including a six over long on off Ali during a breezy counterattack. Smith moved himself to 143 before he cut onto his own stumps off Finn and Starc (59) followed before Peter Siddle (1) was brilliantly caught by Lyth as the tourists were bowled out for 481.
England admirably negotiated the 40-minute session before tea, but after the break Australia ripped through the top order to leave an already subdued Oval crowd praying for miracles. Cook (19) was outstandingly bowled by Lyon but the subsequent dismissals of his teammates left little to be desired.
Lyth made a stylish 19 before he played a crazy pull to be caught at long on off Siddle's first ball to him, as the Aussie seamer claimed his first wicket of the series in bizarre circumstances. Averaging 13.12 in eight innings, the Yorkshire player's future international career looks bleak ahead of the winter series against Pakistan and South Africa.
The loss of the openers sparked a remarkable flurry of wickets which while in stark contrast to the Australia innings, was in keeping with an otherwise highlights package of a series. Ian Bell made just 10 before being bowled by a beauty from Siddle to reduce England to 60 for 3, before Joe Root (6) feathered an edge to Nevill, a decision overturned on review after initially being given not out.
England's ill-discipline was however unrelenting as Jonny Barstow (13) played a crazy pull and holed out to Lyon, before Buttler was bowled by the spinner and Stokes attempted to pull Marsh into the stands and teed up a high catch for Nevill. Stuart Broad's resistance then lasted three balls as he edged to Voges.
Wood should have followed but Marsh overstepped before the Durham bowler edged to the slips, and he and Ali (8 not out) were able to slalom there way to the close without further damage. However, heading into day three England face having the three-day wins they inflicted upon Australia to claim the urn at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, turned on them.