England piled up their joint-highest total Down Under after Matt Prior posted the third century of the innings to heap more misery on Australia in the fifth Ashes Test.

Prior's 118 at the SCG meant numbers seven and eight in the order both reached three figures - out of 636 for nine - and England's mammoth lead grew to 356 by lunch on day four.

There was also a third successive century stand, Prior and Tim Bresnan reaching the milestone for the eighth wicket.

Prior completed his fourth Test hundred with a brutal drive past cover off Michael Beer for his ninth four, to go with one six, from 109 balls.

England were in an impregnable position, and it is merely a matter of time before they become the first tourists to win the Ashes in Australia since 1986/87.

The only significant question remaining is whether they do so by a scoreline of 2-1 or 3-1 - and to avoid the latter, Australia will need to bat for the remainder of this match.

After learning before start of play that Paul Collingwood had decided to retire at the end of this, his 68th Test, Prior and Bresnan ploughed on seamlessly from 488 for seven.

They made batting look a simple occupation, under the sunniest skies of this contest so far, first against Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus and then spin at both ends with an ageing ball.

When Johnson (four for 168) took the third new ball he did so to much taunting about his inconsistent line from England's 'Barmy Army'.

His first over with it disappeared for 10 runs, but there was minor revenge for the left-armer with the wicket of Bresnan - pushing away from his body on the front foot and caught low down at second slip.

Prior finally had to go when he chased an upper-cut, with little foot movement, and edged Hilfenhaus behind. Umpire Billy Bowden called for video evidence to rule out the no-ball, the third such occurrence in the last two Tests, but technology marginally spared Australia further suffering this time.

The same could not be said of Johnson - whose final over was dispatched for 20 runs by England's last pair, courtesy principally of Graeme Swann.