Bangalore:Marcus North sealed his immediate future with his fifth Test century but Australia still need to see off Sachin Tendulkar to feel any degree of comfort in Bangalore.
The Australians must win to avoid a series defeat and North's career-best 128 ensured a strong total of 478, although by stumps Tendulkar and M Vijay were also enjoying the batting conditions.
There was a familiar feel to the match after the series opener followed a similar path in Mohali, where Australia began with 428 and India closed day two at 110 for 2; this time the hosts went to stumps at 128 for 2.
There is no VVS Laxman to torment Australia this time, but Tendulkar and Vijay were frustrating enough in a 90-run partnership.
Vijay cruised to 42 and Tendulkar was on 44, along the way becoming the first man to accumulate 14,000 Test runs.
He was never troubled by the offspin of Nathan Hauritz or the debutant fast man Peter George, whose first few overs featured several nervous leg-side strays. George's first over cost nine, as he learnt quickly not to offer half-volleys to Virender Sehwag.
For a brief period after tea, it looked like Sehwag would define the innings. He slashed his first ball viciously through point off Mitchell Johnson and followed with a flashy cut over third man's head for six.
It was an uncomfortable return to new-ball duties for Johnson, who hadn't taken that role since December.
But Johnson had a hand in the dismissal of Sehwag, whose 30 from 28 deliveries ended when he pulled a slow bouncer from Ben Hilfenhaus straight to Johnson on the square-leg boundary.
That brought out Rahul Dravid and immediately Ricky Ponting called Johnson back into the attack.
It was a wise move against Dravid, who for the third time in the series was out caught behind the wicket to a left-arm fast man.
Doug Bollinger was his harasser in Mohali and this time Dravid (1) pushed at Johnson, edged with the angle and was sharply snapped up at third slip by North.
North grinned at his changed fortunes, which had begun on the previous afternoon when he made his way to 43 not out at stumps.
It took him only one scoring shot on the second morning to take his tally past the 46 that was his aggregate in his previous six innings; that lean patch had led to serious questions over his place in the team.
The selectors were thrilled with North's hundred, which will ensure that he takes part in the Ashes, although he must still aim for greater consistency and fewer grand failures.
When he bats as he did in Bangalore, it's hard to work out how he can produce so many low scores.
He brought up his hundred with a tight single nudged to gully, and dived into his ground at the non-striker's end with relief.
He picked himself up, raised his bat and accepted the standing ovation of his team-mates, who appreciated the effort of North in becoming the side's top scorer for the third time in his 31 Test innings.
North was especially strong with his drives through cover and straight down the ground, which were generally timed to perfection.
Importantly, he batted with control, choosing carefully which deliveries to leave and waiting for opportunities to score, and he even lashed out with a slog-swept six off Pragyan Ojha.
A similar shot off Harbhajan Singh ended North's stay, but by then the Australians were looking for quick runs to move the game forward.
The spinners finished the tail off, though not before a few more were added by Hilfenhaus (16 not out) and Hauritz, who dropped his bat and looked more like a Commonwealth Games sprinter than a cricketer when he failed to beat a Cheteshwar Pujara direct hit.
But those runs were a mere bonus for Australia. The key contributions on the second day came from North and Tim Paine, whose 149-run stand guided Australia past 300 and then on into the more secure 400-plus zone.
Paine rode his luck to reach 59; he was dropped two runs earlier when Suresh Raina spilled a straightforward chance at cover off Ojha.
He had also been reprieved after a wild slash outside off went from the toe of the bat through to MS Dhoni.
Paine was halfway off the field when he was called back by the umpire Ian Gould, who was checking on a suspected no-ball.
The TV official confirmed that Sreesanth had overstepped, and for the second time in the series an Australian batsman escaped after a third-umpire no-ball call.
Paine's chances ran out when he was beaten by Ojha's spin and sharply stumped by Dhoni.
Ojha (3 for 120) quickly followed with Johnson lbw and it was a bright spell for India, though it took help from Harbhajan, who ended up with 4 for 148, to finish off the Australians.
By then, the visitors had managed their highest total in a Bangalore Test. But their bowlers need also to thrive if they are to deny India a series victory.