Australia skipper's first-ball stumping to a pre-meditated lunge against left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja would even embarrass his predecessor Ricky Ponting, who was a nervous starter against spin on the sub-continent and known to push forward blindly against the turning ball.
Unlike Punter's nightmare in 2001, when he aggregated 23 runs and fell to Harbhajan Singh on all five innings, Clarke has been the standout batsman in a team that was clueless against India's spin attack in Chennai and Hyderabad to be 0-2 down in the four-match series.
It was all about making a statement after Clarke had been in the centre of the storm whipped up by the suspension of four players from playing in Mohali for indiscipline.
To their credit, the Australia batsmen showed a newfound determination after a tumultuous week on a pitch that bound together just that bit thanks to the moisture due to the rain.
They were 273 for seven at stumps after Clarke won the toss for the third time and batted.
Jadeja took two wickets off successive deliveries to bring India back into the game after openers Ed Cowan (86) and David Warner (71) applied themselves superbly to raise a 139-run partnership.
At stumps, Steve Smith, batting at No 5 in place of the suspended Shane Watson, was unbeaten on 58.
The batsmen settled down in the morning on a pitch that showed little life but Dhoni went on the offensive after lunch with attacking field placements and the spinners dried up the runs and created pressure, which finally told. Warner fell to a bat-pad catch, Dhoni completing a running attempt at forward short leg.
Clarke, batting at No 3 only for the second time in his career, was beaten by the flight and turn and Dhoni completed a smart stumping, leaving the Aussies stunned.
Forced to re-jig the team following the suspension of four players, the Aussie skipper seemed to have thrown away a golden chance to assert himself, falling to Jadeja for the fourth time in the series.
On a pitch where spinners had to work hard, India's close-in fielders disappointed. Virat Kohli twice failed to reach edges by Warner and Cowan and then dropped Cowan on 64 off left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, recalled in place of Harbhajan Singh.
Cheteshwar Pujara, nursing a dodgy knee, then put down a simple chance off Ashwin at forward shortleg when the batsman was on 85. The off-spinner, however, got him immediately after that, inducing an edge that carried straight to Virat.
The horror run of left-hander Phillip Hughes continued. The original No 3, playing only because Usman Khawaja is banned for the game, was caught down the leg-side off Ojha. Such has been his woes against spin this series that he has scored all of eight runs off 82 deliveries faced against spinners, who have dismissed him on all five occasions.
Ishant Sharma, who was pedestrian in the morning, had Brad Haddin and Moises Henriques off successive deliveries with reverse swing, though Australia can still look forward to get to the 350-run mark.