Melbourne: Murali Vijay brought up his fourth half century of the series as India made 108-1 at stumps in a solid start to its chase of Australia's massive first-innings total of 530.
But it was Steven Smith who set the standard for the day, falling just eight runs short of a double century on the second day of the third test Saturday.
Australia's captain smashed an imperious 192 for his highest first class score, his third century of the series and seventh of his test career. On the way he also passed hard-hitting opener David Warner as Australia's highest scorer of 2014.
Smith went on to snap up the catch of Shikhar Dhawan at third slip off Ryan Harris (1-19) for the only wicket of the third session.
Vijay was 55 not out with Cheteshwar Pujara unbeaten on 25 at the end of play after the Indian batsmen made a watchful start to their chase, content to leave the ball rather than risk a wicket before stumps.
"If you look at the overall game, the score is pretty par for this wicket," spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin said. "It seems slow and pretty flat as well. We'll take 1-108 and we'd like to pile on the runs tomorrow."
Ashwin optimistically said India could still post a score big enough to take control of the match.
"We'll make 650 and try to put them back in," he said.
Pujara got a lucky escape while on 12 when an edge carried to Brad Haddin, who fumbled the catch.
"When you get 530 runs on the board everything gets easier from there," Smith said. "It would have been nice to take a couple of wickets this evening, but if we start well in the morning and get the ball in the right areas I think we'll get some rewards."
Smith was earlier ably assisted by Haddin (55) and fast bowler Harris (74), who brought up entertaining half centuries to help the Australians add 271 runs to their overnight score.
With India's field ranged against the boundary, Smith was the last Australian out, bowled middle stump playing at an Umesh Yadav (3-130) ball to usher tea.
"I got out to a pretty silly shot," Smith said. "They had every man on the fence. I was just trying to get a boundary and it didn't work out so that's OK."
Smith's knock came off 305 balls with 15 boundaries and two sixes.
Harris scored his third test half century in style with eight fours and a six before he was trapped lbw while attempting a big sweep off Ashwin (3-134).
Smith added another 50 runs with Mitchell Johnson, who scored 28 before being stumped off Ravichandran Ashwin (3-134) shortly before lunch.
"Mitch Johnson again today looked good and Ryan Harris came out and batted beautifully. I don't think they (India) had an answer for the way they were playing," Smith said. "It's great for us that the tail can come out and do that and be really aggressive."
Nathan Lyon added 11 and was bowled by Shami.
Smith and Haddin turned an evenly poised match in Australia's favor with an aggressive start to the morning, sharing a 110-run, sixth-wicket partnership until Haddin (55) offered a bottom edge to India wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni off Mohammed Shami (4-138).
After resuming the day on 72 with Australia at 259-5, Smith brought up his century with a four down the leg side off Shami, raising his bat and helmet in celebration before an appreciative Melbourne Cricket Ground crowd. The Australia captain's 100 came off 191 balls with nine boundaries and a six.
Haddin proved a resilient partner at the other end, seeing off a barrage of short balls from the Indian pacemen to reach his half century off 75 balls with seven boundaries a and a six.
Smith's previous highest first-class score was 177 scored for New South Wales against Tasmania. He has now scored 1,132 test runs this year, eclipsing Warner's 1,096.
Australia can clinch the four-test series and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar trophy with a win or draw in Melbourne after a 48-run win in the first test and a four-wicket victory last week in the second test at Brisbane.