Hussey produced a century, setting England a mammoth 391-run chase with two days to play [Reuters]

Australia appeared headed for victory in the third Ashes test on Saturday with Mike Hussey scoring 116 and England collapsing to 81 for five wickets in its second innings at stumps on the third day.

With two days left, England is chasing an improbable 391 to win at the WACA ground and retain the Ashes.

Mitchell Johnson, who wrecked the England first innings with 6-38, took 2-28. Ryan Harris removed Paul Collingwood for 11 off the last ball of the day - caught by Steve Smith at third slip - to finish the day with 2-22.

In the first innings Australia scored 268 and England 187.

Australia resumed the day on 119-3 in its second innings. Hussey's second century of the series and a 113-run stand with Shane Watson (95) dominated play before Australia lost the last five wickets for 33 runs.

England fast bowler Chris Tremlett took 5-87 for his maiden five-wicket haul in a test innings to celebrate his test recall after three years.

The 35-year-old Hussey has scored 517 runs at an average of more than 100 in five test innings, including three half centuries.

Hussey pulled Tremlett to the square leg boundary for his 13th boundary and raced towards the players' dressing room punching the air in celebration.

Under pressure

Under pressure to keep his place in the side before the series opener in Brisbane, Hussey started with 195, and scored 93 and 52 in the second test loss in Adelaide, and 61 here in the first innings.

Earlier, opener Watson was trapped lbw by Tremlett, falling five runs short of his first Ashes hundred. Watson hit 11 fours in his four-hour innings.

Smith, Australia's new No. 6 batsman, contributed 36 runs in a 75-run stand with Hussey as England toiled in the afternoon before Tremlett gave the tourists something to cheer.

Recalled to replace the injured Stuart Broad, Tremlett followed up his first innings 3-63 with his career-best haul in his fourth test.

"On a personal level, I am delighted to take five wickets," Tremlett said. "(But) it's a team game and it is about winning, and it takes the shine off."

Unlikely win

Ian Bell, the last major batsman left for England, will start his innings on the fourth day with night watchman James Anderson, who is yet to score.

Any hopes England had of forcing an unlikely win was again undermined by superb Australian swing bowling.

Three overs later, England captain Strauss followed an out swinger from Johnson and gave Australia captain Ricky Ponting a simple catch at second slip.

Kevin Pieterson struggled for 40 minutes, and then sent Ben Hilfenhaus' delivery to first slip Watson as England struggled to 55 for three.

England lost Jonathan Trott (31) and Collingwood in the space of seven balls.

Aggressive approach

Australia seam bowler Peter Siddle said the team's aggressive approach had paid off.

"In the last couple of matches we've been quiet and have not been at our best," Siddle said. "Me and Mitch (Johnson) got fiery and had a crack by being aggressive and putting pressure on their batsmen. It has paid off at the moment ... It's all part of the game. Both teams are fighting hard."

Ponting went for a precautionary X-ray on his left hand's little finger after attempting to catch Collingwood.

The outcome of the X-ray will decide whether the 36-year-old Ponting will be able to lead the side in the crucial fourth test in Melbourne starting on Boxing Day.

Ponting is yet to miss a test as a captain. If he is unfit, selectors will look to an out-of-form Michael Clarke to lead the side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

"(Ponting's) a little bit sore ... He's feeling upbeat but just wanted to get it checked out," Siddle said.

Two years ago, South Africa successfully chased 414 and won by six wickets here, but history is very much against England.

England won the second test in Adelaide by an innings and 71 runs.

Source: AP