Sri Lanka was deep in trouble at close of play Saturday after Mike Hussey's 19th century put Australia firmly in control on a rain-hit day two of the first test in Hobart.
Hussey's unbeaten 115 laid the platform for an aggressive declaration of 450-5 by Australia captain Michael Clarke.
Sri Lanka then batted through 29.1 overs to trail by 363, but lost Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera in the final session to close on 87-4.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was unbeaten on 50 at the close and will need to press on at Bellerive Oval to give the tourists any chance of salvaging the match.
Matthew Wade chipped in with 68 not out in his hometown, but Sri Lanka's hopes of improving a record of eight defeats and no wins from 10 tests in Australia look slight thanks in most part to Hussey's 184-ball knock.
''You just need a bit of luck to go your way," Hussey said. ''It just takes a couple of good balls or a couple of bad shots or a couple of things not to go your way and you can feel under pressure.
''At the moment it seems to have been going my way. I just want to try and enjoy it while it lasts."
The 37-year-old Hussey started the day, which began 50 minutes late because of rain, with 37 runs in a total of 299-4. He and Clarke kept the scoreboard ticking over in changeable conditions by rotating the strike against a seam attack short of pace and ideas.
Clarke appeared to move freely despite a painful blow to his knee late on day one and was well placed for another century in a calendar year that has already included three double hundreds and an unbeaten 329.
The captain, though, added only four runs to his overnight score before he was tempted across the stumps to nudge a seaming delivery by Shaminda Eranga to Sangakkara at second slip, departing for 74.
That was the opening Sri Lanka had been desperate for, but captain Jayawardene lacked the options to fully exploit it. That wicket was the only one to fall for the addition of 252 runs across three sessions.
Hussey kept accumulating singles after another rain delay across the lunch break and played with caution before reaching his ton with a big swing that Angelo Mathews spilled onto the midwicket boundary.
His fourth century of 2012 included just eight fours, and he added a big six to his collection of boundaries before Clarke declared to leave Sri Lanka with 30 minutes to bat through before tea.
Dilshan and Karunaratne set off positively and offered little to the home bowlers. The latter particularly was spotting the ball early and placing it well, but things changed dramatically in the final session as Sri Lanka slumped from 21-0 at the resumption.
Karunaratne nicked Ben Hilfenhaus to Wade behind the stumps to depart for 14 and Sangakarra, who averages 56.42 in Australia, made just 4 before he drove a thick outside edge from Peter Siddle into the waiting hands of Hussey.
Jayawardene then went leg-before-wicket for 12 to Shane Watson and, from the last ball of the day, Samaraweera top edged Nathan Lyon to Wade, who took the catch at the second attempt.
Clarke's only disappointment can be his failure to reach three figures - a day after Phil Hughes fell 14 runs short of his first century on Australian soil.
Even so, Clarke has the second innings and the second test in Melbourne to add to his total of 1,432 for 2012.
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