After resuming on 75 for three, Australia progressed to 170 for eight by lunch on day five with a lead of 79, and a whitewash was looking an increasingly real possibility. The last two wickets put on 80 to make a game of it, although the hosts will be favourites to clinch the series.
The key passage of play came when captain Michael Clarke (18) was out to Ravindra Jadeja for the fifth time in the series and Phillip Hughes (69) was erroneously adjudged lbw soon after.
While Australia certainly suffered some bad luck, the lack of fight in the lower-middle order was alarming and the news that vice-captain Shane Watson was on his way back to India, having recommitted himself to the side, was surely welcome.
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon was the first man to go, caught behind off Pragyan Ojha, although he could have been caught at slip two overs earlier.
Clarke, who had been unable to bat at his new elevated position of three the previous night because of back pain, joined Hughes at the crease and quickly helped himself to a couple of boundaries off Ojha. But it was a rare attacking highlight for the tourists as the pair set themselves to bat out time.
With Clarke apparently affected by his back problem, though, he never looked comfortable and he fell to Jadeja for the fifth time in six innings as he got an inside edge on to his pad and was caught by Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg.
With Jadeja perilously close to overstepping, the third umpire took a long look at the replay to see if it was a no-ball, but the luck was with India. And that continued three overs later when the normally reliable Aleem Dar gave Hughes, who had added 16 to his overnight 53, out lbw to a ball from Ravichandran Ashwin which was clearly missing leg stump.
When Moises Henriques (two) and Peter Siddle (13) failed to stick around long and with Australia 143 for eight - 52 ahead - there was a possibility the match could be over before lunch.
But Brad Haddin and Mitchell Starc, who scored 99 in the first innings, at least saw their side through to the interval. After a 36-run stand Australia were nine down when Haddin was trapped plumb in front off Ashwin for 30 to leave them 179 for nine. Starc and Xavier Doherty dug in and added 44 for the final wicket before the former was finally dismissed for 35 - caught by Ashwin off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.