England's bowlers fought back with four wickets after lunch on day two but Michael Hussey held firm for Australia before bad light and rain stopped play in the first Ashes Test at the Gabba.
After the hosts reached lunch with a comfortable-looking 96 for one on the scoreboard, the touring attack came to life in the afternoon session as James Anderson inspired them to make it 143 for five.
By tea Hussey (81 not out) and Brad Haddin (22no) were together and they combined well in a curtailed final session to see Australia to 220 for five - 40 short of England's total - with the new ball ready to be taken.
Anderson and Stuart Broad each bowled well in the first hour this morning but could find no way past Australia's two skilful openers.
Simon Katich would have gone on 22 had Alastair Cook managed a direct hit from cover when Watson failed to respond to a call for a feasible single and his opening partner therefore had to scamper and dive back.
Broad produced a brutal bouncer to pin Watson on the chest and then have the batsman frantically missing a kick at the ball as it dropped into the crease and trickled past his stumps.
There were some resounding shots too - particularly from Watson, making the most of his giant stride to drive Broad past mid-off and then crunch Steven Finn straight of mid-on in his first over.
England thought they had Katich, with the partnership on 67, when Billy Doctrove gave him out lbw. But DRS evidence demonstrated the ball was clearing the stumps.
In Anderson's next over, England chose to review a Doctrove not-out for lbw against Watson - only for simulation to show the ball going over leg-stump again.
It seemed nothing was going for Andrew Strauss' team, in their increasingly anxious quest for a breakthrough.
But with his very next delivery, Anderson was rewarded.
He located a perfect length on the line of off stump, and a little away movement off the pitch and extra bounce took the shoulder of Watson's bat for an edge to slip and regulation catch by Strauss himself.
Katich had no trouble closing out the remainder of the morning in company with his captain Ricky Ponting.
But a titanic half-hour after lunch was emphatically England's, thanks largely to Anderson - whose spell either side of the break read 11-6-18-2.
He struck, fortunately, with just the second ball of the afternoon when Ponting tried a leg-glance and got only a faint edge behind instead.
Katich completed his 103-ball half-century with a perfect example of the same shot, for just his fifth four, off Finn - but then fell to the same bowler, via a fine return catch down by the 6ft 8in seamer's boots.
Finn almost had Hussey first ball, the edge falling just short of Graeme Swann at second slip.
Australia had two men in on nought - and with Anderson and Finn in full cry, Michael Clarke stayed that way for 16 balls.
He was still scoreless when Finn was convinced he had him caught behind.
England were sure enough to use up their second review, but yet again the technology immediately to hand vindicated umpire Aleem Dar - despite an apparent noise to suggest an inside edge.
Clarke's struggle simply continued, though.
He could not follow Hussey's lead to dominate Swann, and Finn returned to have him caught behind trying to pull for a tortured nine from 50 balls.
Swann then got in on the act when Marcus North (one) edged an off-break to slip.
After two wickets for three runs, it seemed one more before tea might put England in with an unexpected chance of a first-innings lead.
The rejuvenated Hussey and Haddin were in no mood to let that happen, though.
Veteran Hussey (78no), whose place had been in grave doubt until he made a last-ditch hundred for Western Australia in the nick of time, was assured throughout - after that first-ball scare.
He outscored each of his partners dramatically. It was he too who set about Swann, using his feet for an early six over long-on - and he cut, mercilessly pulled and drove his way to a high boundary count of nine in his 85-ball fifty.
The left-hander used the crease impressively, altering the length on both back and front foot.
England took the new ball under murky skies hoping it would inspire a tumble of wickets but with the floodlights not yet at full beam poor visibility, then heavy rain called things to a close well short of the scheduled end.
Play will begin tomorrow half an hour early to make up for lost time.