R Ashwin India
India spinner R Ashwin picked up five wickets against Australia in the second innigsReuters

If the third day was all about the brilliance of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the fourth was entirely about the Indian spinners, particularly R Ashwin, as India sent Australia towards the brink of defeat at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

The Aussies, unable to cope with the barrage from the Indian spinners, were on the verge of suffering an innings defeat before the last-wicket pair of Moises Henriques (75 n.o.) and Nathan Lyon (12) ensured, not just that India would bat again but also that the match would go to a fifth day, ending the day on 232 for nine for a lead of 40 runs.

The Australian wicket train began with the score on 34, when Ashwin snared Shane Watson, opening the batting for the ill David Warner, for 17, with the Aussie batsman edging a ball that bounced and spun, to Virender Sehwag at first slip with.

The Tea session was all India, as the hosts picked up four wickets with Watson's fellow opener Ed Cowan the first to go on a difficult pitch, which put into perspective the remarkable innings of Dhoni.

Cowan (32 in 97 balls) got caught in the middle of the crease, falling prey to a quicker delivery from Ashwin with Kumar Dharmasena having no hesitation in giving an LBW.

The score was 64 for two when Cowan got out, and Phil Hughes soon followed suit, with just a further run being added to the scoreboard. Hughes had just survived a close shout for a catch at leg slip in the previous delivery, when the ball might have nicked his glove on the way, but there was little doubt about the third wicket in the next ball.

Ravindra Jadeja, making up for the fact that not a single fast bowler had been given a bowl in the second innings so far, produced his own version of a bouncer, with the ball spitting and bouncing to great effect. Hughes completely caught unawares had little option but to try and fend it off, which he did not do as successfully as he would have hoped, with Sehwag gleefully accepting the lobbed catch.

The onus was completely on Australia's main man Michael Clarke to produce another sparkling century, but it was always going to be an uphill battle on a fourth day pitch that would have looked right at home on the clay-courts of Roland Garros.

Australia just about got past the 100-mark before losing their fourth wicket, that of Warner, who had come at No. 3.

Harbhajan Singh picked up only his second wicket of the match, and first of the innings, trapping Warner in front of the wicket.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade, who needed to stick around for as long as possible with his skipper, disappointed by going for a wild sweep only to see his middle stump knocked out with the scores reading 121 for five.

If there was any hope that the Clarke and Moises Henriques duo would stitch together another century partnership, similar to the first innings, it was quickly dashed when Ashwin grabbed the crucial wicket of the Aussie captain.

The pitch played a big part in getting the in-form Clarke (31), as the ball stayed low from a short of a length delivery, with the ball missing the batsman's bat and hitting the back pad in front of off stump, leaving Australia reeling at 131 for six.

Now, it was just a matter of time as the tail-enders came out to face the Indian spinners in a ruthless mood on a pitch that was tailor-made for them.

Peter Siddle and James Pattinson knuckled down and tried to battle it out against the elements, a wicket apiece for Jadeja and Ashwin, however, quickly brought the scores to 161 for eight, with India needing just two wickets for an innings victory, while Australia, trailing by 31, went in search of trying to make India bat again.

Mitchell Starc then fell to Ashwin, his fifth of the innings and 12th of the match, at 175, going for slog with Sachin Tendulkar completing the catch at mid-on.

Henriques and Lyon stuck around though, putting on 57 together and the duo will now look to prolong the inevitable further tomorrow morning.

Earlier, MS Dhoni added 18 runs to his overnight total of 206, eventually succumbing to the bowling of James Pattinson for a brilliant 224 off just 265 balls. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma stuck around for a while to push India's total to 572.