David Warner struck a fluent century to put Australia in a dominant position on the first day of the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne.
With the home side already 3-0 up in the series and having regained the Ashes, England must avoid defeat in at least one of the final two Tests to prevent a third 5-0 whitewash from their past four visits down under.
Australia powered to 102-0 at lunch after winning the toss and opting to bat first on a flat MCG pitch, with the free-scoring Warner going into the break unbeaten on 83 from just 94 balls faced.
The New South Wales opener was then dramatically reprieved on 99 after he was caught at mid-on off debutant Tom Curran, with replays showing the Surrey man had marginally overstepped the crease.
Warner brought up his 21st Test century one ball later to spark jubilation among the home players and most of the capacity 90,000 crowd at the MCG.
England pulled things back admirably in unhelpful conditions in the post-lunch session to peg the hosts back to 160-3, with Warner departing for 103 after he feathered a James Anderson delivery to Jonny Bairstow.
Cameron Bancroft was trapped lbw by Chris Woakes for 26, before Stuart Broad took his first wicket since day two of the second Test in Adelaide by removing Usman Khawaja cheaply after the tea break.
That brought the in-form Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh together, with the pair relatively untroubled on a slowing pitch as they added 84 to take Australia to 244-3 at the close. The Australia captain played another flawless innings to end the day unbeaten on 65 off 131 deliveries.
"It was a hard fought day. England brought it back in the afternoon and bowled fantastic when the ball reversed but towards the end we got on a bit of a roll and as we have seen over the last couple of years Steve Smith comes in makes it look very easy," Warner told BBC Test Match Special.
"If you're patient you can make the most of the pitch but you do have to be patient. If you straighten up the field and grind it out as a bowler, you can get your rewards," the Australia opener added.
"It's going to be tough Test match bowling. Hopefully we can get a good total and the bowlers can come out and grind away."