Australia suffered a rare batting collapse at the start of their second innings after Shivnarine Chanderpaul survived a blow to the head and scored his 18th Test hundred for West Indies in Jamaica on Saturday.
Australia, leading by 119 runs from the first innings, fell to 17 for four in their second innings when bad light stopped play nine overs early on the third day at Sabina Park.
Fidel Edwards put the skids on the visitors with two wickets for 11 runs from four overs, and Daren Powell gave admirable support with two for five from five overs.
This followed another epic innings of 118 from Chanderpaul which lifted West Indies to 312, in reply to Australia’s first innings total of 431.
Stuart Clark was the pick of the Aussie bowlers with three for 63, Brett Lee captured three for 59, Mitchell Johnson took two for 63, and Stuart MacGill two for 100.
Australia were looking to build on their healthy lead but Phil Jaques was caught behind for five, the left-handed opener groping at an Edwards’ delivery moving away from the line of the off-stump.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting led his side’s batting in the first innings with a majestic 158, but he had no answer when Daren Powell squared him up and had him caught at third slip for five to leave his side 11 for two.
But more drama was to come, when Edwards gained a palpable lbw verdict to dismiss makeshift left-handed opener Simon Katich for one, and next over, Australia suffered another blow, when Powell bowled Mike Hussey for one.
This all unfolded after Chanderpaul took a blow to the back of his head from a sharply, rising delivery from Lee and lay immobile on the pitch for a several minutes.
The doughty left-hander however, received medical attention of the field, and rose a little unsteadily to his feet before he carried on and reached his landmark, when he drove Stuart Clark straight down the ground for two.
But Lee had three wickets in the last hour before tea to pull the rug from under West Indies, after they had battled to reach 260 for four.
Lee toiled 19 overs before claiming his first wicket of Dwayne Bravo, then added the scalps of Denesh Ramdin and Powell that sent West Indies crashing to 268 for eight at the tea break.
Lee struck an important blow, when he had Bravo caught at first slip for 46 edging a loose drive at a delivery outside the off-stump.
Australia would have been delighted to see the back of Bravo, after he came to the wicket in the closing stages of the morning period and emerged after lunch to spearhead the West Indies assault.
MacGill was the main target of Bravo’s aggression as he struck all three of his sixes and a couple of his fours off him.
Bravo and Chanderpaul put on 64 for the fifth wicket before Lee stepped in to transform the complexion of the match.
Lee had Ramdin caught behind for a duck in his next over, when the West Indies wicketkeeper/batsman too, drove loosely outside the off-stump.
Mitchell Johnson bowled with pace, but little accuracy, and he too, was struggling to find his first wicket until Sammy whipped an over-pitched delivery on leg-stump and was caught at mid-wicket.
Lee then bowled Powell for three with a well-directed yorker that extracted the middle-stump.
This carnage was in stark contrast to what transpired before lunch, when West Indies strode confidently to 197 for four at the interval.