Steven Smith brought up his maiden test century with a six, smashing Jonathan Trott back over his head to reach the landmark before he finished on 138 not out. (Photo/AP)
England reached 32-0 at stumps on Thursday, trailing Australia by 460 on day two of the fifth test at the Oval.
Alastair Cook and Joe Root are the not out batsmen on 17 and 13 respectively, having batted through a tricky period after Australia declared on 492-9.
Earlier Steven Smith brought up his maiden test century with a six, smashing Jonathan Trott back over his head to reach the landmark before he finished on 138 not out, from 241 balls, a knock including two sixes and 16 fours.
"I probably wouldn't have played quite that type of shot if it had been another bowler," Smith said. "But Jonathan Trott is a part-timer who doesn't bowl very often. I had a chat with Hadds (Brad Haddin) and said what do you think about hitting him over his head? He said just keep a clear mind. It was a good chance that I saw to get it out of the way. It's a great feeling to get a hundred in a test match."
James Anderson was England's best bowler with 4-95.
Rain had delayed the start of play until 2:30 p.m. local time (1330 GMT).
Conditions were gloomy and with the ball swinging around, nightwatchman Peter Siddle added only five to his overnight score before he was clean bowled by a superb ball from Anderson.
It was an isolated success for the hosts, who wasted a referral when an Anderson delivery flicked Brad Haddin's thigh pad.
The bowler didn't even appeal, but at wicketkeeper Matt Prior's insistence the call was reviewed, with the crowd audibly groaning when the footage confirmed Aleem Dar's decision.
Having selected five specialist bowlers, England resorted to Trott's occasional medium pacers, with captain Alastair Cook either unable or unwilling to bowl Swann, or risk bringing back debutant Simon Kerrigan after the mauling he received on day one.
England's bowling coach David Saker blamed a sodden outfield for their reluctance to use the spinners.
"Once the ball got wet it limited who we could throw the ball to and what we could do with it," he said. "The second spinner could come into it and hopefully he will. We still believe we can win the match from where we're sitting. If Simon Kerrigan bowls us to victory on the fifth day it'll be a feel good story for everyone."
Smith was nearly out first ball on Wednesday when he started his knock with a shocking air shot to Anderson, but he passed his previous best test score of 92 when he cut the same bowler through gully and brilliantly drove Trott's first ball of the 113th over into the stands, for his first test century in 23 innings.
Trott responded by removing Haddin four balls later, bowled by a ball he dragged on to his stumps.
James Faulkner's debut innings was brief but entertaining. He hit Stuart Broad for three fours in the first over after tea before he holed out to Chris Woakes and was caught on the boundary by Trott.
Australia began the evening session on 397-6 and scored 95 runs in 11.5 overs before the declaration.
Mitchell Starc scored at a run a ball for 13 before he was bowled by Swann and Ryan Harris continued the attack with a six from Swann, swept over cow corner.
In Swann's next over, the 126th, Harris hit him into the Vauxhall End but his cameo ended when he holed out to Anderson, who ran for 30 yards before catching him at mid-off for 33 from 27 balls.
Clarke sent Nathan Lyon out to partner Smith, but declared just one ball later, leaving England to face a tricky period before stumps.
Fauklner nearly claimed a wicket with his first delivery but Root's edge fell just short of the slips and Australia's bowlers failed to cause the openers any serious problems before bad light stopped play for the day.