Opening batsman Chris Rogers scored a potentially crucial century as Australia closed on England’s insignificant first-innings 238 on day two of the fourth Ashes Test in Durham.
The gritty left-handed opener nudged and nurdled his way to his maiden Test century, showing impressive patience and application in a partnership of 129 runs Shane Watson, who scored 68, as England saw their first-innings lead reduced to just 16 runs as Australia ended the day on 222 with five wickets still remaining.
Rogers became the second oldest player to score his maiden Test ton for Australia at 35 years and 344 days with his determined innings of 101 not out as England were left frustrated in the field after having been bowled out early on the second day.
Australia’s doughty fifth-wicket partnership came after three wickets from Stuart Broad had reduced the tourists to 75 for three at lunch with England having earlier failed to add a single run to their overnight total of 238.
Broad, who starred for the hosts with 4-48, produced a hostile spell of fast bowling under overcast skies and on a pitch offering extravagant seam movement to remove David Warner (three), Usman Khawaja (nought) and captain Michael Clarke (six).
When Tim Bresnan had Steve Smith caught behind by Matt Prior for 17 after lunch, it looked as though England's first-innings total was not as unsubstantial as first thought, but Rogers and Watson promptly demonstrated the kind of patience that was required.
Former opener Watson, demoted to number six for this Test, provided a reassuring presence alongside Rogers and the pair battled superbly in a fine century partnership as they threatened to take the match away from the hosts before the former became Broad's fourth wicket, caught behind.
Prior, making his 71st Test appearance, moved past 200 on England's all-time wicketkeeping list as he took three catches in the innings. Only Alec Stewart (227) and Alan Knott (250) have taken more catches.
Rogers reached his half-century with an edge off Broad that was put down by Graeme Swann as he dived full-length at second slip attempting the catch, and he later managed to hold his nerve despite having to scrap through the 90s to reach three figures in the final session.
Earlier in the day, Rogers was controversially handed a reprieve in complicated circumstances when Australia were 34 for two as he was given out caught behind by Tony Hill. On Rogers's referral the ball was found to be missing the bat but clipping the top of the stumps on Hawk-Eye's projection, and England's players were left baffled as Rogers was eventually given not out by the third umpire according to the DRS regulations.
Brad Haddin, who was left unbeaten on 12, joined Rogers for the final overs before the umpires brought an abrupt end to the day's play as the light deteriorated at the Riverside Ground with Australia trailing by just 16 runs with five wickets still in hand.
England are 2-0 up in the five-match series having already retained the Ashes in the third Test at Old Trafford, but Alastair Cook’s side have it all to do if they are to turn the contest around. The hosts' first priority will be to remove Rogers, who was left to celebrate his maiden Test century at the end of the day's play.