A determined Will Sutherland looms as the biggest hurdle to Western Australia defending their Sheffield Shield crown after a nightmare Victoria collapse on day three of the final.
The visitors went to stumps on day three at the WACA Ground at 6-122, leading WA by just two runs in their second innings.
A hobbled Sutherland, suffering back soreness after claiming a five-wicket haul during WA's first innings, was unbeaten on 40 off 39 balls after failing to emerge until the fall of the sixth wicket.
Victoria resumed after tea at 2-19 and restored some momentum through captain Peter Handscomb (52), who was the only other visiting batter to reach double figures.
But youngster Teague Wyllie's superb catch diving forward at midwicket to dislodge Campbell Kellaway (seven off 63 balls) off the bowling of Matt Kelly (2-17) sparked a collapse of 4-10 to leave the visitors in peril at 6-74.
Handscomb was the last to fall, picking out Corey Rocchiccioli at deep point while cutting a short-pitched Lance Morris delivery.
Returning to Shield cricket after Australia's Test tour of India, Handscomb had otherwise looked in commanding touch.
Victoria must win outright to claim the title after WA outpaced the visitors on bonus points by dismissing them within the first 100 overs of their first innings, leaving Sutherland and Mitch Perry (seven not out) facing a mammoth task.
"It is unfortunate. It's been a great season for us but it's been a tough game," coach Chris Rogers said.
"(A lead of) anything over 100 at least gives us something to bowl to. We could at least put 30, 40 overs together but we would need everything to go our way.
"We're going to have to bat out of our skins."
Victory across the remaining two days would secure WA an unprecedented 'six-peat' of consecutive Shield, one-day cup and Big Bash League titles.
Joel Paris (3-32) was the chief destroyer for the hosts, dismissing Marcus Harris (one) and Ash Chandrasinghe (eight) during an opening spell of 2-7.
After carrying his bat and scoring just 46 from almost seven hours at the crease in the first dig, Chandrasinghe unwisely shouldered arms to a Paris delivery on eight which nipped back and hit the top of off stump.
Ashton Turner earlier compiled his highest first-class score with a magnificent 128 before WA were bowled out in their first innings for 315 in response to Victoria's 195.
Turner partnered with tailender Paris (31) for a 105-run stand, batting superbly against the new ball after WA resumed at 5-175.
The 30-year-old had not played in the Shield since October 2020 before earning a recall for last week's final-round game against the same opponents at the same venue.
He was feted by his hometown crowd after taking a quick single off the bowling of Todd Murphy to reach his hundred off 190 balls.
Turner's last first-class century came in November 2017 when he made an unbeaten 101 against Queensland, building on two tons the previous season.
His counter-attacking 86-run stand with Aaron Hardie (45) turned the game for WA on day two after they had collapsed to 4-53.
"We knew the first hour of the first session was going to be really important," Turner said.
"To be able to play a role in getting us in front of the game at stumps tonight was a very satisfying feeling.
"It's our responsibility to come and play well tomorrow and try and finish the game."
Australian Associated Press
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