A slick first half hour turned into a day of despair for the BLACKCAPS as an onslaught from Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin left them staring at defeat in the second cricket test.
Haddin's first test century, 169 off 222 balls, and a ninth test hundred for vice-captain Michael Clarke lifted Australia to a mammoth first innings of 535 today in reply to the BLACKCAPS’ substandard 270.
Staring at a deficit of 265, BLACKCAPS opener Aaron Redmond took 14 runs off speedster Brett Lee's first over -- including three edges through the slips for four -- as he and Jamie How added an encouraging 35 off nine overs before stumps on the third day.
Still, a huge batting improvement is needed in the next two days to stave off defeat and avoid a slip to eighth in the world rankings.
Australia resumed on 241 for three and again it was crucial dropped catches which cost the BLACKCAPS dearly as captain Daniel Vettori toiled away for nearly 60 overs.
It all started so well for the tourists who rocked the home side with the second new ball just as the Adelaide Oval crowd were taking their seats.
Senior paceman Chris Martin was the instigator in the day's third over with two wickets in five balls, dangermen Michael Hussey for 70 and Andrew Symonds for nought.
Martin hurried an attempted hook shot by Hussey and he lobbed a catch to a diving Redmond to mid-wicket.
Then Symonds' unhappy return to test cricket continued when he was adjudged caught behind, third ball, by umpire Billy Doctrove when replays cast doubt over whether he'd hit it.
At that stage it was 247 for five, the BLACKCAPS still led by 23 and they were back in the test as Martin and Iain O'Brien charged in.
But it didn't take long for thoughts to turn from possible victory to survival as New South Wales mates Haddin and Clarke took control to add 181 for the sixth wicket on the best batting surface in Australia.
Haddin scored six and 19 in the first test in Brisbane, and his previous best score in eight tests was 45 not out against the West Indies.
He had luck; given not out by Doctrove from a confident caught behind shout by Martin on seven, then got his biggest letoff on 72 when Vettori deceived him with flight but Daniel Flynn dropped a simple chance at mid-on.
Vettori shouldered a huge workload, largely bowling a leg stump line and trying to use the footmarks.
He bowled unchanged for much of the day for figures of 59.4-20-124-2, including the final wicket of Nathan Hauritz.
Haddin raced to 50 off 65 balls then jubilantly celebrated his century off 133 balls, including 16 fours.
He had another letoff when umpire Rudi Koertzen turned down a bat-pad catch appeal off Vettori that appeared to brush his glove.
Clarke reached 100 in a more sedate 218 deliveries as the total was nudged past 400.
A Vettori bowling change did the trick as O'Brien enticed a false drive from Clarke on 110, then legspinner Redmond finally removed Haddin, caught on the boundary as he went for his third six to go with 24 fours.
The BLACKCAPS’ fielding woes extended to their captain, who shelled a return chance from Lee on nought.
Lee added a further 19 before O'Brien claimed his third victim to a brilliant one-handed slips catch from Ross Taylor.