Alastair Cook fell short of a major score once again but Joe Root's half-century ensured England's mission to stifle Australian ambition was otherwise intact after the third morning of the fifth Investec Ashes Test.
England captain Cook has a top score of 62 in the series, his only half-century, after falling for 25 midway through the first session at the Kia Oval.
One unwanted statistic had at least fallen by the wayside by then, with Cook and Joe Root posting their first 50 stand after four unconvincing Tests for their partnership.
Responding to Australia's 492 for nine declared - and resuming on 32 - Cook and Root reached 68 before the dogged Ryan Harris drew first blood, though Australia needed more breakthroughs to establish a clear advantage in the game.
With England 3-0 up after four matches, it is Australia who need the result most but a lunch score of 97 for one, with Root 52 not out and Jonathan Trott unbeaten on nine, did not seem overly helpful to the cause.
With 27 overs lost to rain on Thursday and more forecast for the weekend, Australia arrived in the morning knowing they required early wickets to set up what would be their first win of a disappointing summer.
But a combination of gentle seam bowling and focused batting ensured no successes in the first hour.
There were few flashes of inspiration from either side in truth, one imperious cover drive from Root the notable exception, but that suited the home side's interests as they attempted to deny their opponents the oxygen of victory.
Australia captain Michael Clarke attempted to steal a wicket with a gambler's review against Cook, but Mitchell Starc's lbw appeal fell at the first hurdle when replays showed it pitched outside leg.
When the breakthrough did come it was from the ever-willing Harris, pushing one across the left-hander and finding the outside edge.
Root was managing to keep his score ticking along with semi-regular boundaries but then got stuck on 41 for 19 deliveries before a dashed single got him moving again.
A compact flick into the on side off Siddle brought him his eighth four and a confident pull for one brought up his half-century.
Trott, like Cook, has had a quiet series and some thoughtful field placings restricted him to single figures before the break.