Australia's first innings was when it all started to go wrong in Ranchi, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
Lehmann's side must defuse the threat of India spinner Ravindra Jadeja on day five if they are to salvage a draw from the third Test.
Jadeja claimed both wickets to fall in the 7.2 overs that India delivered late on day four, clean bowling vice-captain David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon.
Steve Smith's side will resume their second innings at 2-23 on Monday, still trailing by 129 runs. Left-arm spinner Jadeja will make life particularly difficult for Australia's left-handers because of a rough patch that will ensure plenty of balls misbehave.
Lehmann acknowledged it would be an immense challenge for his side to keep the series level at 1-1 ahead of the Dharamsala decider that starts on Saturday.
The man who was part of Australia's drought-breaking 2004 series win in India lamented the fact they were in such a position at all.
Lehmann apportioned blame not to an attack that toiled for 210 overs but a batting order that managed 451 in the first innings after Smith won the toss and was stranded on 178 not out.
"If anything it (the workload of the bowlers) heightens our first innings where we needed to bat a little bit longer," Lehmann said.
"It's 500, 550 on those sort of wickets isn't it? Bat for 150 overs plus.
"We fell short by 50, 60 runs and 15 or 20 overs. That's the challenge for the group to get there and make sure when they're batting in those scenarios they go big, bigger.
"That was the same issue with England (when they toured India recently and failed to win a Test).
"Now we find ourselves in a position where we've got to fight hard on the last day to save the game."
Australia put down a couple of chances on day four, with Matthew Wade's drop of Wriddhiman Saha on 51 by far the most costly.
"Wadey kept really well on the whole ... he'll have a look at it and review it and see where he went wrong," Lehmann said.
"He's been excellent throughout the whole series on difficult wickets."
India’s innings was built around a record-breaking dig of 202 from Cheteshwar Pujara, who had a simple response when Josh Hazlewood tried to niggle India's batsmen on day four of the third Test in Ranchi.
"Look at the scoreboard," Pujara quipped, according to teammate Wriddhiman Saha.
Pujara and Saha compiled a 199-run stand that turned the match on its head.
Pujara spent more than 11 hours at the crease in Ranchi and faced some 525 balls in his marathon innings, which ended after tea on Sunday.
Rahul Dravid previously held the record for the longest Test innings by an Indian, having faced 495 balls in a knock of 270 against Pakistan in 2004.
Hazlewood tried to rattle Pujara and Saha with a barrage of bouncers and barbs but it was one of many tactics that failed from the visitors.
"In a match there is always some talk on the field," Saha recalled.
"Pujara just told him 'look at the scoreboard'. Pujara was batting at 180 at the time.
"When he (Hazlewood) tried to talk to me I also just said go and bowl, that was it nothing more."
Umpires Chris Gaffney and Ian Gould took control of the situation, warning both Hazlewood and Pujara to focus on the game.
The tension between the two sides was clear during a handful of incidents on Sunday.
Injured captain Virat Kohli celebrated both late wickets heartily, grabbing his shoulder after David Warner was dismissed in a clear sign he didn't appreciate Glenn Maxwell's antics on the preceding day.
The tourists were unhappy with a video released between the second and third Tests in which Pujara bragged about sledging David Warner.
Meanwhile, Saha and Australia coach Darren Lehmann both praised Pujara's patience at the crease.
"He scores 200-300 in domestic cricket almost routinely. He is always on the top of his game," Saha said.
"We were not getting really big partnerships. He curtailed his shots, tried to build big partnerships."
Lehmann suggested Pujara showed the visiting batsmen the best way to approach day five of the contest.
"He bats long periods of time ... when he gets in, he certainly likes to go on with it. We've got to find a way to get him out early," Lehmann said.