Chennai: India's spinners grabbed nine wickets for 175 runs in 65.5 overs to set up hopes of a four-day victory, but were left frustrated by a stubborn last-wicket stand of 40 between Moises Henriques and Nathan Lyon. Australia found themselves battling for survival in the face of a 192-run deficit following India's surge to 572, and India were lifted by R Ashwin's five wickets, but Henriques and Lyon ensured the match would go into the final day.
The manner in which the Australian batsmen struggled was in stark contrast to the way MS Dhoni biffed his way to 224, the highest score by an Indian captain in Tests. Dhoni opened the second innings with offspin from both ends and Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh purchased appreciable bounce and turn from a wearing day-four surface. Ed Cowan had a few testing moments as Australia looked to bat out the session, and the promoted Watson looked solid - he pulled Harbhajan for a six - until he gloved a catch to slip on the stroke of lunch.
Australia resumed the second session on 34 for 1 and added 30 to their total before Ashwin struck a second time. Cowan faced plenty of struggles - appeals for caught behind and lbw, inside edges just short of catchers and top-edges - before he was adjudged lbw when playing with an angled bat. Cowan shook his head as he trudged off, but replays showed that Kumar Dharmasena had made a good call. Moments later, Ravindra Jadeja extracted Phillip Hughes for 0 when the left-hander fended a nasty bouncing delivery to slip (65 for 3).
Already batting with a broken thumb, David Warner - who did not open due to a stomach upset - was clearly uncomfortable. His first runs came 16 deliveries into his innings via a thick edge, and Warner remained all at sea as he groped and grasped at turning deliveries from Ashwin and Jadeja. Just when it appeared that Warner was growing in confidence having hit Ashwin out of the attack, he fell in the first over of Harbhajan's return. It was a straightforward decision, as the ball drifted in and hit Warner in front. Six overs later, Harbhajan beat Matthew Wade's ambitious sweep to claim another (121 for 5).
The wicket that had eluded India in the afternoon came in the first over after tea, all but signaling the end of Australia's resistance. Looking to cut against the spin, Michael Clarke was beaten for sharp turn and given lbw for 31. The Australian captain had been dropped on 0 by Virat Kohli at leg gully off Ashwin, but the bowler had the last word; it was his tenth wicket of the Test.
From here it was a steady procession of wickets until Lyon joined Henriques. Peter Siddle slogged at Jadeja and was bowled for 2; James Pattinson edged Ashwin to first slip for 11; and Mitchell Starc chipped to mid-on to give Ashwin his fifth. Henriques, following 68 in the first innings, helped erase the deficit with an unbeaten 75, while Lyon remained not out on 8 off 47 balls.
In the morning session, Dhoni added 18 to his overnight total before he gloved a short ball from James Pattinson down the leg side for 224 - eight short of the highest score by a Test wicketkeeper. That was Pattinson's fifth wicket - and third overall - but Australia were kept in the field eight overs longer as Bhuvneshwar Kumar (38) and Ishant Sharma put on 26 for the final wicket. It would be 75 overs before one of India's pace bowlers was called on, but even that three-over spell from Ishant failed to snap an obdurate last-ditch partnership.