Bresnan puts England on the brink

England stand on the cusp of retaining the Ashes after Tim Bresnan ripped through the top order after tea at the MCG.

Bresnan - selected here for his first match of the series in place of leading wicket-taker Steven Finn - shifted opener Shane Watson (54), an ultra-determined home captain Ricky Ponting and then Australia's banker Michael Hussey in a spell of three wickets for two runs in 18 balls.

Michael Clarke then followed for 13, caught in the slips off Graeme Swann, and before the close, Steve Smith's stubborn resistance was ended by James Anderson as he departed for 38 leaving Australia 69 for six, still 246 runs behind, as England closed their grip on an innings victory, a 2-1 lead and the Ashes.

With Ryan Harris having suffered a stress fracture of the foot, making him unlikely to bat again, the hosts are fast running out of options.

Australia could afford no self-inflicted blows - and that is just what they got when Watson's unwise call for a single to cover off Swann resulted in Philip Hughes having to go, run out via a good throw from Jonathan Trott and neat work from wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

England were bowling well but seemed sure to have to prepare for a long haul - until Bresnan (three for 22), with highly-skilled reverse-swing, had his say.

Watson was deceived sufficiently to shoulder arms at one that snaked back to win an lbw verdict from Tony Hill, which narrowly stood after a failed DRS.

Bresnan then had Ponting chopping on to his stumps and Hussey poking a low catch to cover for a duck.

Clarke, having survived an early chance, did not last much longer, edging to Strauss in the slips and Smith then sent an inside edge on to his own stumps to go for 38, and put England another step closer.

In the morning England lost their last five wickets for only 54 runs as Trott was unbeaten on 168 and Peter Siddle finished with six for 75.