A Deluge of rain and a bad weather forecast for tomorrow stands between England and a 1-0 series lead in the Ashes with seven wickets required for a likely victory.

Bad light and then an expected thunderstorm shortly after tea gave a further reprieve to the hosts who have batted their way into having a fighting chance of saving the second Test.

No further play was expected on Monday due to the wet surface, but heading into the final day Australia are 175-3 in their second innings, 200 runs behind England who dominated the Australian attack yet again this morning.

Having declared within an hour of the resumption of play, Graeme Swann made the first inroads in Australia's second innings as England scented their chance of victory, even as storm clouds gathered above the Adelaide Oval.

After finally declaring their first innings on 620 for five, England had a 375-run lead and almost two days - weather permitting - to bowl out their hosts in this second Ashes Test.

Australia's survival prospects were enhanced in an opening stand of 84. But Swann, bowling unchanged for 24 overs in tandem with pace, then took two early-afternoon wickets.

By tea the hosts were 160 for three, still facing a long haul to avoid a 1-0 deficit with three matches to play but with renewed hope provided by official warnings of imminent and severe thunderstorms.

Openers Shane Watson and Simon Katich, parted in the first over and without a run on the board at the start of this match three days ago, were unmoved up to and beyond lunch.

Katich had to bat and run almost on one leg thanks to an ankle injury, done no favours by more than two days in the field.

But both he and Watson approached a daunting task with an evident intent to take all reasonable scoring opportunities, rather than merely survive.

The introduction of Swann, at 44 for none after just 10 overs, brought a more circumspect response from the batsmen - but still no breakthrough.

England's hope was that their champion off-spinner could make the most of footmarks created by Doug Bollinger's 29 overs of left-arm pace from the river end.

But a clutch of morning miscues and bat-pads did not go to hand, the closest call coming when Ian Bell was just unable to reach a ball which looped over his head at silly-point when Watson was on 26.

It was to be Swann nonetheless who got England up and running, as he started to find slightly sharper turn and variable bounce on a pitch expected to deteriorate.

First, Katich followed an off-break and got a faint edge behind on the back foot.

Then Ricky Ponting, on a king pair but beginning to look comfortable once he cut Swann for four after 13 balls on nought, slightly closed the face pushing forward and was expertly caught low down to his left by Paul Collingwood at slip.

Watson stayed put for his second half-century of the match, brought up with his ninth four - a resounding straight-drive off Stuart Broad, who went off shortly afterwards nursing a strained stomach muscle.

England's resources were therefore compromised but they had made enough progress to remain optimistic of victory at some point tomorrow, especially after Steven Finn had Watson (57) edging low to slip.

Kevin Pietersen earlier finished with a career-best 227, and Bell (68no) with his second half-century from as many attempts in this series, before England decided they had enough runs.

They had to balance the unfavourable weather forecast with the value of further demoralising their hosts - and predictably batted on for 40 minutes on an initially sunny morning, bagging an extra 69 runs.

Pietersen went one ball after clubbing Xavier Doherty for a leg-side four to post his highest Test score, edging an attempted repeat to slip.

His 308-ball innings contained 33 fours and one six.

Matt Prior chipped some handy quick runs too - having escaped a faulty slog-sweep high into the leg-side off Doherty, Ponting and Marcus North shambolically allowing the ball to drop safely between them when either one might have made the catch.

When the players left the field, Michael Hussey was 24 not out alongside Michael Clarke, unbeaten on 41.