The fourth Test took a while to get going, with runs at a premium, but it burst into life when Australia reeled off a series of vital wickets.
The pitch was ideal for England to build a steady total, yet they shifted between two extremes—enduring multiple overs without notching a single run or going for ridiculous shots and being punished.
50 - Since being 149-2 after 49 overs, England have scored 50 runs in 35 overs for the loss of 6 wickets. Plateaued. #Ashes— OptaJim (@OptaJim) August 9, 2013
With four days remaining, let’s break down which players will make the difference at Chester-le-Street.
James Anderson (England)
James Anderson’s form has dipped slightly since setting the first Test alight, but he is the man to get England back on track.
His 10-wicket haul at Trent Bridge set the hosts on their way to retaining the Ashes and he must tear through the Australian order at least once more if he is to be considered for the "player of the series" gong.
The stage is set for him: conditions are expected to be favourable for swing bowling over the weekend so he will be hopeful of adding more wickets to his impressive personal collection and leading his nation to a 3-0 lead.
Graeme Swann (England)
Graeme Swann has twice bagged five wickets in this Ashes series and if he can get the ball to turn on this wicket, another one is in the offing.
Given Nathan Lyon managed to rack up a collection of wickets on day one without applying much spin to the ball, imagine the potential bounty on offer for Swann this weekend.
Swann will have to be more economical than at Old Trafford, where he let 159 runs go in the first innings despite taking out half of the Australian team, but runs are harder to come by on this pitch and he is the perfect option for captain Alastair Cook, should his speed bowlers struggle.
David Warner (Australia)
England looked shaken in bat as day one wore on and with David Warner returning to the top of the Aussie order, it's his responsibility to build an advantage for the tourists.
The hosts have made the pitch look worse than it is, with questionable shot selection, and Warner should work with fellow opener Chris Rogers to post a decent total. If he can go after the England attack and play with the confidence that saw him post 193 for Australia A in South Africa as he warmed up for his Ashes return, then his teammates will relax and a solid total will follow.
Warner struggled in Manchester, making 46 runs, but as the series can technically still be drawn, Warner can send a big message to the selectors: regardless of punching Joe Root in that Birmingham bar, they were ill-advised to drop him for the Ashes.