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New Zealand trapped in the old Australian house of horrors

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Australia dominate New Zealand in opening session (1:25)

Nathan Lyon took the last New Zealand wicket in a relentless opening session on day three (1:25)

It has been pretty brutal for New Zealand in Perth. If there was a list of things that could go wrong for a touring side in Australia, they had ticked plenty of them off by lunch on the third day.

Lose the toss, lose a bowler, toil for 146 overs and then get bowled out in less than 56. Hey, Tim and Neil, mind strapping on those bowling boots again? Throw in being on the end of an iffy umpiring decision, and it's almost a full house of horrors. A dropped catch and a couple of wasted reviews followed the afternoon.

New Zealand are made of stern stuff - as they showed during the rest of the day in the field with herculean efforts from Neil Wagner and Tim Southee - but trying to get out of this will test them to the core. For all the positive build-up and talk about this being their best chance in Australia since 1985-86, there was the nagging doubts created by heavy defeats in the past, especially at the beginning of a series.

Since 2001, when they almost nicked the opening Test in Brisbane after Steve Waugh dangled the carrot after rain, the margins of defeat in the opening Tests (all at the Gabba) have been an innings and 156 runs, 149 runs, nine wickets and 208 runs.

Now, with two days to go, they need to avoid being rolled again in the second innings to minimise the scars they carry to Melbourne. Their performance in the field on another steaming-hot day bodes well for their spirit although probably not for their batsmen's prospects. They have a glimmer because Australia are without Josh Hazlewood, but they will need to show considerably more resistance than first time around.

"It would have been nice to have batted a bit longer and give our bowlers a bit of a rest. Obviously disappointed with our effort of 160 but I thought the fight of our bowlers today was fantastic," Ross Taylor said. "There's still a long way to go in this Test but I thought the fight we showed as a team, especially in that last session, bodes well for the rest of the series. Throughout the last few years the strength of the side has been the fighting spirit and regardless of what happens we want to fight right to the end. It's a time for us to step up as a batting unit and getting our confidence up."

The pitch won't get any easier. It may not generate the massive cracks that made the WACA famous - these drop-in pitches come in individual trays which prevent them widening too much - but there was considerable turn for Nathan Lyon and a few signs of uneven bounce as the day progressed.

Lyon's second delivery of the day was a ripping offbreak that beat Taylor through the gate and he teased the outside edge before drawing a nick which carried low to Steven Smith at slip. It was beautiful offspin bowling. Lyon took eight wickets in last year's Test against India; with Australia being a quick bowler short, he could have a lot of work in the second innings.

Marnus Labuschagne also spun one sharply from the footmarks to bowl Mitchell Santner on the drive. He went wide on the crease and drew Santner forward in a manner that would have pleased any legspinner. There is much more to come from Labuschagne's bowling.

"Nathan will play a big part in the fourth innings," Joe Burns said. "The wicket has spun and bounced, it's a great cricket wicket. If you bat well you make runs, if you bowl well you take wickets. Nathan bowls very well in the four innings so expect him to take a few wickets."

And along with all that, Australia have a beast with the pink ball in Mitchell Starc. Despite all his success in day-night Tests - where he has 38 wickets at 20.07 - his response to format was: "Don't overdo it." There will be plenty of opposition batsmen echoing that sentiment.

He had four of wickets the previous night having done a job on New Zealand's middle order but the fifth came with a brute. Colin de Grandhomme was probably unlucky with the decision, but the short ball itself was vicious as it climbed towards his head and gave him nowhere to go.

The sum total of being dissected in less than two sessions was a deficit of 250 and the sight of Australia's openers padding up again. It would have been enough for New Zealand's bowlers to question their profession.

To their immense credit they did not wilt from their task and made life hard work for Australia's top order. There was no sprint start from David Warner but almost inevitably when a team is so far behind, there was a dropped catch and it came with Labuschagne, facing his third ball on 4, when he top-edged a pull over midwicket where de Grandhomme turned and made good ground but spilled the chance.

However, New Zealand dug deep into their resolve in the final session as Southee and Wagner put their bodies on the line (as did the batsmen facing the short stuff) with unbroken spells of seven and 10 overs respectively. While the reality is it did little to dampen Australia's overall dominance it opened one important door for New Zealand: they will now expect, with four wickets to fall, to have a chance to bat in a considerable amount of daylight on Sunday meaning the ball will be old when night comes.

Still, whenever the survival battle begins, it will require a mammoth effort. Before the match, New Zealand coach Gary Stead said this Test presented the "most extreme" challenge his team could face. So far it has lived up to that billing.