Hamilton: Mitchell Johnson lifted his game considerably in the second Test against New Zealand and has been a major factor in Australia putting itself in an extremely dominant position after day four.
Australia claimed three wickets in the final session on day four of its Test against New Zealand to leave the home side struggling for survival on 185 for five at stumps at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
New Zealand was in enough trouble on 89-2 at tea before some quick wickets left the tail dangerously exposed.
None of the New Zealand batting line-up managed to score more than 30 runs in an innings dominated by Mitchell Johnson who collected three wickets after bowling the quickest he has in the series.
Martin Guptill (29 not out) and Brendon McCullum (19 not out) are the not out batsmen at stumps, but they are the last line of defence before New Zealand's bowlers will be forced to take the crease.
Johnson was the pick of the Australian bowlers with figures of 3-39 while the spin of Michael Clarke and Nathan Hauritz both managed to pick up a wicket.
Australia had earlier declared on 511 for 8 at lunch, setting New Zealand a huge total of 479 runs. And with only five wickets remaining, and still 294 runs behind, there is little hope of New Zealand avoiding defeat.
After a reasonable start, the 150kph-plus pace of Johnson soon found the mark and spelled the end for the Kiwi openers.
Tim McIntosh (19) was first to go when a 150kph screamer from Johnson found a way between his bat and pad to crash into the stumps. Fellow opener BJ Watling looked good in the opening stages but was caught by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin off another super Johnson delivery for 24.
With New Zealand needing a solid partnership on 53-2, Ross Taylor (22) came out hard and looked to repeat his first innings record total and was well supported by veteran Matthew Sinclair (29).
Both failed to save New Zealand, falling to Johnson and Clarke respectively, leaving the fate of New Zealand's innings to the middle-order.
New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori (22) did not produce the dream 100th test he was hoping for and was soon given out lbw after a delivery from Hauritz leaving his side on 152-5 and in serious trouble.
With Vettori gone, Australia needed just one wicket before exposing the long tail that would not be expected to offer much resistance in the final stages of the match on a pitch that was steadily becoming much more bowler-friendly.
Earlier, Australia had started the day well ahead in the match at 333-4 but New Zealand managed to break a vital partnership between Michael Clarke (63) and Marcus North (90) to give the home side some hope.
New Zealand seamer Brent Arnel struck first, his third wicket in the innings, when he removed Clarke lbw before skipper Daniel Vettori claimed two big wickets in the same over to put all the pressure on Haddin who was the only real batsman remaining.
Vettori's dream over began when North edged a delivery to Brendon McCullum before Mitchell Johnson was caught by Jeetan Patel off the first ball he faced.
Patel then got the vital wicket of Brad Haddin, clean-bowled for 48 after a brilliant delivery jumped a mile and took the top of off-stump.
Simon Katich (106) was responsible for putting his side into such a strong position after spending a huge amount of time at the crease and was supported well by several of his team-mates.
New Zealand had earlier disappointed itself when, after bowling Australia out for a paltry 231, it only managed 264 runs despite Taylor cracking his countries quickest Test match century.
Australia won the first match of the series by a considerable 10-wickets at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.
Australia: 231 & 511 for 8 dec (Katich 106, North 90)
New Zealand: 264 & 185 for 5 (Johnson 3-39)
Status: New Zealand need 294 runs to win