Australia got a vital breakthrough minutes before the lunch break, as Pakistani fly-half Abdullah Shafique edged a delivery from Pat Cummins to Steve Smith on the first slip and went for 96.
Pakistan now need 252 more runs to secure the most unlikely of victories as Babar Azam and Fawad Alam scramble to ensure no collapse occurs.
Pakistan were in cruise control for most of the first session, with Shafique and Babar Azam munching away the mammoth total needed to secure victory.
But Shafique left with Pakistan at 3/249.
For most of the session, Australia’s bowling attack didn’t have a glimmer of hope to start on Day 5, with Shafique and Azam topping the 200 partnership mark.
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Perhaps the Australians’ struggles were summed up with the first two deliveries from debutant Mitchell Swepson, who threw back-to-back full pitches with his first two balls of the day.
The two were happily battered for boundaries by Babar Azam, as Pakistan seek to hunt the highest target of all time in Test cricket.
Azam began a century of fighting with the big backing of fly-half Abdullah Shafique on Tuesday as Pakistan thwarted Australia’s hopes of an early victory in the second Test in Karachi.
Setting a daunting target of 506 points, Azam hit his sixth Test century – and second against Australia – to guide Pakistan to 2-192 and raise hopes of an unlikely win, or even game bad.
In the end, Azam were unbeaten on 102 and Shafique 71 as the pair added 171 for the third wicket, leaving the home side needing a further 314 runs in the final day’s 90 overs for a win, or beat three sessions for the draw.
“The game is not over yet,” Azam told the host broadcasters. “We have to keep hitting like this and keep the belief (to create history).
“Certainly my cent was needed by the team and my plan was to build a partnership, which Shafique and I did, but we have to keep it going (Wednesday).”
Pakistan lost Imam-ul-Haq (one) and Azhar Ali (six) before Shafique and Azam led the fight back, leaving Australia without a wicket in the final session – despite taking the second new ball after 80 overs .
Azam edged a spinner Mitchell Swepson to a short leg two to reach the triple digit mark, his first in 21 innings since his 143 against Bangladesh at Rawalpindi in February 2020.
His cent came in 247 minutes with 12 limits.
Shafique was as solid as his skipper, having hit four limits and a six so far as he and Azam challenged for 265 minutes.
No team has ever chased more than the 418-7 West Indies amassed against Australia in Antigua in 2003, while Pakistan’s most successful chase was 377 against Sri Lanka in Pallekele in 2015.
Australia, retaking their second set at 81-1, batted just 26 minutes early in the game to add 16 runs before claiming a 97-2 lead.
The visitors scored 556-9 declared in their opening innings and then fired Pakistan for 148.
The home side had hoped Azhar would anchor the second inning, but the senior batsman was trapped by Cameron Green as he tried to escape a short pitch delivery.
Azhar opted not to review as he walked away, but he must have regretted it as TV replays showed he had gloved the ball.
At 21-2, Australia looked to have the advantage and were looking to take a 1-0 lead in the three-game series, but their efforts were thwarted by slow pitching and brilliance from the Pakistani batting pair .
Australia could have had Shafique on the 20th, but the experienced Steve Smith got a direct grip into the slides of point guard Pat Cummins.
Australian batting coach Michael Di Venuto described luck as part of the game.
“Smith has good hands and he’s taking nine out of ten strikes, but it happens,” Di Venuto said.
“It’s going to be hard work (tomorrow) and as there is a variable bounce on the pitch, it’s going to be interesting.”
Despite cracks on the pitch at the National Cricket Stadium, Australian spinners Nathan Lyon and Swepson failed to secure a vicious corner.
Earlier, Haq and Shafique were all cautious as it took them until the fifth to score the first point before Lyon struck.
The in-form Haq, who scored one hundred in each leg of the first Draw Test in Rawalpindi, was trapped lbw for one as he failed to connect with a slippery delivery.
Earlier, Marnus Labuschagne was knocked down by a sharp delivery from Shaheen Shah Afridi for 44 to prompt skipper Cummins to end the Australian innings with Pakistan-born first inning maker of the century Usman Khawaja remaining 44 not out .
Pakistan XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan Faheem Ashraf, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi
Australia XI: Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson
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