Indian offspinner Ravi Ashwin triggered a middle-order collapse before tailender Peter Siddle hit a career-best 47 not out to guide the tourists to 8-231 on day one of the fourth Test.
No 9 batsman Siddle held the innings together with partnerships of 53 with Steve Smith and 42 with James Pattinson (11 not out in 71 minutes).
No 3 Phil Hughes (45) and opener Ed Cowan (38) made starts but tailender Siddle was one of only two batsmen to soak up 100 balls, alongside No 6 Smith who hit 46 off 45 deliveries.
Ashwin claimed 4-40 off 30 overs, giving him 26 scalps for the four-match series which India lead three-nil.
In sunny conditions on Friday on a dusty, cracked pitch - already starting to show signs of variable bounce at Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla ground - the visitors once again had no answer to India's spinners.
India employed a three-pronged spin attack which included Ravindra Jadeja (2-34) and Pragyan Ojha (0-67).
Australia haven't lost four matches in a Test series since the 1978/79 Ashes, which was during the turmoil of the breakaway World Series Cricket years.
Stand-in skipper Shane Watson's men were well placed at lunch at 2-94 after losing the wickets of David Warner for a duck and Hughes, who hit 10 boundaries in his 45.
Cowan was bowled around his legs attempting to sweep Ashwin at 3-106, as five wickets tumbled for 30 runs.
The key dismissal of Watson came nine runs later, stumped for 17.
Matthew Wade (two) appeared unlucky to be given out caught bat-pad at silly point.
Indian Premier League million-dollar man Glenn Maxwell (10) was caught at wide mid-on.
Mitchell Johnson was bowled for three at 7-136, offering no shot to Ashwin.
Smith hit three fours and two sixes in an important two-and-a-half-hour knock.
The 23-year-old was Ashwin's fourth victim, caught at short leg after adding 53 vital runs for the eighth wicket with Siddle.
Watson, who won the toss in his new role as Australia's 44th Test captain after skipper Michael Clarke was ruled out with a back injury, said it had been an emotional few days.
The 31-year-old was one of four players banned from the third Test for disciplinary reasons after failing to complete a homework assignment on time.
Coach Mickey Arthur had granted Watson leave during his ban to attend the birth of his first child in Sydney.
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