England suffered a top-order collapse as they slumped to 26 for three chasing a target of 286 to beat reigning champions Australia in a World Cup match at Lord’s on Tuesday.
Jason Behrendorff struck with just the second ball of England’s reply, an inswinger bowling struggling opener James Vince for a duck.
Fellow left-arm quick Mitchell Starc then took two wickets for five runs in nine balls.
Test skipper Joe Root was plumb lbw to an inswinger for eight before England captain Eoin Morgan (four) fell into a hooking trap when a top-edge was held safely by Pat Cummins at fine leg.
Victory over their arch-rivals would see Australia, who have lost 10 of their past 11 one-day internationals against England, into the semi-finals.
And while a third defeat in the group stage would not spell the end of England’s hopes of reaching the last four from the 10-team round-robin stage, it would set alarm bells ringing.
England’s final three group opponents are Australia, India and New Zealand — teams they have not beaten at a World Cup since 1992.
Earlier, Australia captain Aaron Finch made exactly 100 before getting out next ball in a total of 285-7.
Finch, dropped on 15, and fellow opener David Warner (53) came through some testing early overs to share a stand of 123 as too many of England’s pacemen, with the exception of Chris Woakes, dropped short.
The skipper’s exit sparked a late flurry of wickets but Australia have already defended a total of 288 to beat the West Indies earlier in the tournament, with Finch side’s having won all four games in which they have bowled second at this World Cup.
“To get out straight after a hundred is never ideal,” said Finch. “I think there is enough in the wicket. It is still a pretty good score.
“It wasn’t the easiest wicket to start on. The ball was moving for the seamer. We were conscious to get through that and were able to. We could have got a few more runs but we have got to defend it regardless.”
Both Warner, the World Cup’s leading run-scorer, and Steve Smith were booed as they entered and exited the field following their recent return from year-long bans for ball-tampering.
Morgan, who has said it is not his job to tell the crowd how to behave, won the toss in overcast conditions and on a green pitch that promised to help his attack.
Finch went to his century thanks to a misfield by Woakes but next ball he miscued a hook off Jofra Archer and Woakes made no mistake with the catch at fine leg.
Finch was out for exactly 100, having faced 116 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes.
England, bidding to win the World Cup for the first time, were unchanged from the side that lost to Sri Lanka.
Australia made two changes from the team that Bangladesh by 48 runs in Nottingham, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon replacing leg-spinner Adam Zampa and Behrendorff coming in for fellow paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile.