Ricky Ponting looked poised to make amends for running out Usman Khawaja with a big score as Australia reached 154-3 in reply to New Zealand's first innings 295 after the second day of the first test on Friday.
Ponting was on 67 when bad light brought an early end to proceedings alongside his successor as skipper Michael Clarke, who was fortunate to reach 28 after being bowled by Doug Bracewell only for the umpire to call him back for a no-ball.
The 36-year-old Ponting had steadied the innings with Khawaja after the cheap loss of both openers but hared off for an ill-considered single on the first ball after tea and Kane Williamson accepted the gift with an athletic underarm throw.
Khawaja departed for 38 with a glower on his face leaving Ponting, who is looking to end a 21-month wait for his 40th test century, to progress to his 58th half century, his second in consecutive tests.
"Ricky's one of the legends of this game, he's awesome and hopefully he can go on and get a big one tomorrow," said Australia finger spinner Nathan Lyon, who took 4-69.
"There's going to be a lot of hard work for us tomorrow, particularly in the first couple of hours. The game's certainly in the balance."
New Zealand 1st innings 295 all out (D Vettori 96, D Brownlie 77*; N Lyon 4/69 vs Australia 154/3 (Ponting 67*).