Joe Root rode his luck to reach his 50 after being dropped three times by fumbling Australia on the opening day of the fifth Ashes Test at the Oval on Thursday.
World Cup winners England, desperate to level the series at 2-2, reached 169-3 at tea after losing the toss, as early cloud cover gave way to sunny skies in London.
Root was unbeaten on 57 and Jonny Bairstow was 22 not out as the home side seek to deny Tim Paine's Australia a first series win in England since 2001.
England captain Root came into the match searching for consistency after three ducks in his five previous innings but needed outrageous luck to survive.
He had an astonishing let-off when, on 24, he top-edged a pull off Pat Cummins to deep fine leg, only for the recalled Peter Siddle to drop a straightforward catch, much to the delight of the nearby crowd.
In Cummins' next over Root again had a huge escape when wicketkeeper Paine failed to cling on to a one-handed chance in front of David Warner at first slip.
Shortly after lunch, the skipper had yet another reprieve when a diving Steve Smith failed to hold on to a sharp chance at second slip off the bowling of Siddle.
Root drove Josh Hazlewood square of the wicket to bring up 7,000 Test runs in his 158th innings —only three England players have reached the mark more quickly.
But the home side were unable to make the most of their good fortune, losing Rory Burns and Ben Stokes tamely to stumble to 130-3.