Bowled out for what seemed a paltry 255 in the morning, the tourists hit back through their seamers in the afternoon with Stuart Broad and James Anderson's parsimony and discipline capturing three wickets apiece before a crowd of more than 78,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, fighting another desperate rearguard action, was 43 not out at stumps, with number 11 batsman Nathan Lyon yet to face a ball and Australia trailing by 91 runs.
"England are on top. We have had our worst day of the series," Australia opener Chris Rogers said after scoring 61, his third half-century of the series.
"They bowled outstandingly and we're up against it."
Australia may have recovered the Ashes and wrapped up the five-test series 3-0, but the frailty of their batsmen has been repeatedly exposed throughout the series before being hastily concealed by the dourness of Haddin.
Unlike the first three tests in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, however, none of the keeper's team mates lingered for long enough to mount a rescue of any sort and an England that, for many, seemed destined to be swept 5-0, suddenly appeared rejuvenated and chirpy.
"Days like that have been few and far between on this trip, and we're really hungry to get something out of this tour and I think we showed that today," Anderson said.
"I thought we fielded, or most of the other guys, fielded pretty well all day. We dived around a lot, we chased everything. I thought (captain) Cookie set really good fields, we bowled to those fields and it was a really complete performance."
Having restricted Australia to 96-3 at tea, their bowlers turned the screws under bright sunshine, and Steve Smith was the first domino to fall.
The number five batsman had hung around for 95 minutes and 77 balls for his 19 runs, but flashed a frustrated cut shot that sent an edge flying to Ian Bell at second slip.
The wicket broke a 48-run partnership and sparked a collapse as Rogers promptly threw away his wicket after nearly four hours of painstaking graft.
The 36-year-old had shown great poise, raising the half-century shortly before tea after being struck in the helmet by a Broad delivery that left him bleeding from his temple.
But his attempted slog over mid-on off Bresnan found only Kevin Pietersen charging to his right.
One-day specialist George Bailey never appeared comfortable in the role of rescuer and followed soon after, caught behind by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow off Anderson for a 19-ball duck.
Umpire Aleem Dar turned down the appeal, but the 'snicko' technology suggested a faint noise, which was deemed enough to award the wicket and prompted indignant jeers from the crowd.
That left Australia teetering on 122-6, but Haddin ignored the scoreboard, blasting a six off Ben Stokes over long-on and two fours in an over off Anderson.
Anderson let his captain and Bresnan down twice with two dropped catches, a tough chance reprieving Smith on seven before tea and a much simpler one saving Johnson an hour before stumps.
He made amends shortly after by taking a sharp chance to remove Johnson at midwicket for two and hand Bresnan his second wicket.
Ryan Harris lasted 27 balls for his six runs before fending off a rising delivery from Broad to Joe Root at short leg and play was brought to a close when Peter Siddle spooned to Bresnan at cover to be out for a duck off Broad.
Australia captain Clarke's poor record against England at the venue continued when he was bowled for 10 after not playing at a swinging Anderson delivery after lunch.
Anderson also removed dangerous opener David Warner for nine before all-rounder Stokes dismissed number three Shane Watson for 10 shortly before lunch.
The morning belonged to Australia's Johnson, however, as he continued his scintillating form to finish the innings with 5-63, his new ball spell reaping a devastating 5-18 in nine overs.
The left-arm paceman struck with his first ball of the morning to have Bresnan caught by a scrambling Bailey at square leg for one. His fifth ball bowled Kevin Pietersen for 71, the horrible slog attempt unlikely to quell the batsman's detractors.
Broad was trapped in front by Johnson for 11 in an almost exact repeat of the third test dismissal in Perth that injured the Englishman's foot.
Lyon ended the innings by bowling Monty Panesar for two, leaving Anderson stranded on 11 not out and bringing England's innings to a close.


Latest News from Sports News Desk