Michael Clarke gets among the runs against South Africa. Photo: Reuters
MICHAEL Clarke has picked up where he left off in front of local audiences, this time saving a match and, remarkably, giving Australia the faintest hope of a win that seemed impossible 24 hours earlier.
Now, having done all that could be asked with the bat and more - his 218 not out was his 20th Test century and his third time past 200 in less than a year - much will come down to his other trump card, his captaincy, on the final day of the first Test.
Once again this was a captain's knock in name and nature. Most importantly, it arrived when it was needed most.
A draw is still overwhelmingly the likely result, but thanks to Clarke, in conjunction with an outstanding Ed Cowan (136) and Mike Hussey (86 not out), Australia is, all of a sudden, in with a sniff against the No. 1-ranked Test-playing nation.
''I definitely think we can have a crack at winning,'' Clarke said on Monday night.
''I think the key tomorrow morning is to be nice and positive and see how we go leading up to lunch, then give ourselves a couple of sessions to try and bowl South Africa out.
''I think we take a lot of confidence out of the way we bowled on [Sunday]. I think we took seven wickets for about 200 runs, so that's really positive for our bowlers.
''Hopefully the sun is out and the wicket deteriorates a little more. It's worth a go in my opinion. We want to try and win.
''The wicket is still pretty good for batting, though, so we're going to need a lot of things to go our way. I know it's going to be tough to win the Test from here, but it's worth having a crack.''
The last day at the Gabba will again start 30 minutes early and the Australians, having surged past South Africa's total of 450 to 4-487 late on Monday, will turn up at the ground with their tails up, knowing their opponents are down on morale and on personnel with the injury to J.P. Duminy.
For sure, Clarke's bowlers would have to be far more effective than they were earlier in this match - and indeed more so than the Proteas' vanquished attack - but the mere possibility that Australia could challenge for victory reflects the brilliant turnaround the home captain has managed to muster.
Less than 12 months after he pummelled India with a triple and then a double century, Clarke was back in prolific, and historic, form.
Only Donald Bradman and Ricky Ponting before him had scored three double tons in a calendar year.
Just before stumps he registered another milestone, bringing up 1000 Test runs for the calendar year, a tally that leaves him more than 200 clear of South Africa's Hashim Amla, or anyone else.
In that period he has averaged in excess of 110.
There were tentative moments along the way but Clarke was increasingly imperious as his innings went on, showing little regard towards the close of play for the reputation of the Proteas' top-ranked paceman Dale Steyn and sending the rest of the tourists' hitherto-feared bowling attack to all corners of the Gabba.
The captain's latest hundred continues his wonderful trend of success with the proverbial armband on. The century in Brisbane was his sixth hundred since assuming the Test leadership against Sri Lanka in Galle in September last year.
In four of them he passed 150; in three gone beyond 200 - the latest careering his average as captain beyond 60 - above that of Warwick Armstrong (56), Greg Chappell (55.38) and bested only by Bradman (101.45).
''It's been nice to be able to lead by example with the bat,'' Clarke said. ''I've said for a while now, 'it's not what you say, it's what you do'. I guess what I'm probably doing now is, I'm getting in and I'm cashing in, whereas earlier in my career I got a lot of starts and threw my wicket away. I'm working my backside off to make sure I help this team have success.
''When the team needs it, that's probably what is most important to me, that I'm standing up and making runs when the team needs it.''
On a day in which only one wicket fell - that of Cowan, and in terribly unfortunate circumstances, run out while backing up - the opening stage of the fight for Test cricket's world No. 1 ranking appeared destined to end up a fizzer as a result.
But Clarke and Cowan's record 259-run stand, and then the captain's and Hussey's late assault, has provided unexpected life. Clarke's consecutive fours in the final hour against paceman Morne Morkel, the first to point, the second to long-on, were reflective of a batsman completely on top. The addition to the attack of the very part-time Amla, and his barely legal half-track alleged spin, was then money for jam for Clarke and Hussey.
Proteas captain Graeme Smith had already offered respite for South Africa's tired fast bowlers with his off-breaks, and by the time Amla was handed the ball Australia, after nearly four days gone, was beginning to believe.