LONDON - Mitchell Starc took the second new ball and struck with his very first delivery to give Australia a window of hope on a grinding day three at The Oval.
When Starc trapped Jonathan Trott lbw for 40 to snap a 58-run partnership with Kevin Pietersen (29no), the tension started to rise out in the middle.
With rain predicted to significantly hamper progress on day four of the fifth Test, Australia were anxious for more quick wickets to give them a chance of taking something home from the Ashes.
At the tea break, England were 3-181 still needing a further 112 to avoid the follow-on.
Trott's dismissal brought Ian Bell to the crease and immediately emotions started to spill over.
Pietersen at the non-striker's end and Australian captain Michael Clarke at slip engaged in a verbal stoush from 30 yards apart, with both umpires forced to intervene.
But Clarke and Pietersen kept at it, with England appearing to take exception to the Australians talking behind the wicket as Bell prepared to face.
Umpire Aleem Dar was clearly angered by the back-and-forth and walked down the middle to talk to players on several occasions before Starc (1-46) had finished his over.
There were plenty of smiles as players made their way to the rooms for tea, but the indications were things are starting to heat up between the two sides with a return Ashes series just around the corner.
A draw seems the most likely result at The Oval unless Australia can run through them in the final session and enforce the follow-on.
England crawled along at just 2.2 runs an over and before Pietersen found the fence in the 75th over, England had gone 11 overs without a boundary.
Opening pair Alastair Cook (25) and Joe Root (68) posted their biggest stand of the series (68), before the England captain was caught behind off Ryan Harris (1-27).
Root then piled on 50 with Trott, before the rookie opener swept Nathan Lyon (1-31) to Shane Watson had short fine leg.