Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes halted another hapless England collapse as the tourists struggled to 61 for five at lunch on day two of the final Test at the SCG.
England's hopes of avoiding a series whitewash appeared in jeopardy as they faltered from eight for one to 23 for five after an hour's play on a glorious morning, in reply to Australia's 326 all out.
But debutant Ballance and Stokes, England's only centurion in this miserable campaign to date, more than doubled a still sorry total in an unbroken stand.
Ryan Harris had earlier made the most of conventional new-ball swing to see off Alastair Cook almost immediately, very nearly Ian Bell next ball, and then Kevin Pietersen for good measure.
Cook fell to the second delivery of the morning, a stock inswinger which he misread and left alone to be lbw.
It was a basic misjudgment, and one which perhaps summed up England's frazzled state here.
Bell ought to have followed his captain straight back.
He edged a perfectly pitched Harris outswinger to slip, where Shane Watson put down a regulation catch which would have condemned Bell to a second golden duck in successive innings.
Nightwatchman James Anderson tried to grit it out against Mitchell Johnson, and took a painful blow to each hand for his trouble before guiding a catch to Michael Clarke at second slip.
Pietersen then never convinced before aiming an ambitious drive at another Harris outswinger, only to edge to a safe Watson this time.
Ballance opened his Test account with a drive through vacant mid-off for three off Harris, though - and after more than 40 minutes and 20 balls stuck on nought, Bell also got under way in the same over with two runs into the leg-side.
If that amounted to partial respite, it did not last.
Peter Siddle replaced Johnson at the Randwick End, and Bell edged him behind to become the fifth batsman to go without threatening double-figures.
But Stokes and Ballance, like Australia's sixth-wicket pair Brad Haddin and Steve Smith on day one, at last provided some missing substance to the innings.
Stokes was the first England batsman to hit a four, an off drive from the first ball of Harris' second spell, and also the first into double-figures.
He had one particularly anxious moment, however, on seven when he got an under-edge behind off Siddle.
Haddin did not immediately claim the catch, and third umpire Tony Hill made a notably swift decision that the ball had not carried - a view which was not universally held by other observers.
Ballance had dodged Johnson's first spell, but had to face the music when he returned - and for his trouble, was soon hit flush on the helmet by a short ball.