NEW DELHI (AFP) - Michael Clarke hit a gritty century to steer Australia to safety on the fourth day of the third Test against a sloppy India here on Saturday. Clarke, 27, led Australia's commendable fightback with a 112-run knock that spanned six hours and took the tourists to a first innings score of 577 all out, just 36 adrift of India's 613-7 declared. The visitors then reduced India to 43-2 with Brett Lee accounting for Virender Sehwag (12) and Stuart Clark dismissing nightwatchman Ishant Sharma for one. India's first-innings double-centurion Gautam Gambhir was batting on 21 with Rahul Dravid on five at close. With just four sessions of play remaining and the wicket not showing much signs of deterioration, a draw looks the only likely result. India lead the four-match Test series 1-0 after winning the second Test in Mohali by 320 runs. The opener in Bangalore ended in a draw. The platform for Australia's fightback was laid by their top-order batsmen, each of who made handy contributions before Clarke came to the party with his eighth Test century. The Aussie vice-captain shared a 73-run stand with Shane Watson (36) and added 103 for the seventh wicket with Cameron White (44) while surviving three dropped chances by the butter-fingered Indians. He was dropped on 21, 90 and 94, underlining India's indifferent effort in the field and dashing their hopes of forcing a series-clinching win here. The only bright spot for the hosts was the maiden five-wicket haul by part-time off-spinner Sehwag, who finished with fine figures of 5-104. But the highlight of the day was Clarke's patient 253-ball knock, containing six fours and a six. He was dropped twice in his 90s with Venkatsai Laxman - celebrating his 34th birthday - failing to cup a sitter off Sehwag and Amit Mishra (2-144) grassing another in the bowler's next over. Clarke, who scored 151 on his Test debut against India in Bangalore in 2004, was earlier spilled on 21 by Sharma who failed to latch on to a simple chance at mid-on off Mishra. He was finally dismissed by Mishra, who had him caught by Zaheer Khan at long off. Sehwag, India's only triple-centurion, bowled White to bag his first Test five-wicket haul. White hit five fours and a six off leg-spinner Anil Kumble in his cameo 95-ball effort. Kumble (1-94) returned to bowl in the 15th over a day after needing 11 stitches for a deep cut he sustained on his left little finger on Friday. The Indian captain, who once bowled with a broken jaw against West Indies in Antigua in 2002, picked his first wicket of the series when he had Brad Haddin (17) stumped by Mahendra Dhoni. The fourth and final Test will be played in Nagpur from Nov 6-10. SCOREBOARD INDIA 1st innings: 613-7 decl. (G. Gambhir 206, V. Laxman 200 no; M. Johnson 3-142, S. Watson 2-66) AUSTRALIA 1st innings (overnight 338-4): M. Hayden lbw b Sehwag 83 S. Katich b Mishra 64 R. Ponting b Sehwag 87 M. Hussey b Sehwag 53 M. Clarke c Zaheer b Mishra 112 S. Watson b Sehwag 36 B. Haddin st Dhoni b Kumble 17 C. White b Sehwag 44 B. Lee lbw b Kumble 8 M. Johnson c and b Kumble 15 S. Clark not out 1 EXTRAS: (b28, lb17, nb10, w2) 57 TOTAL (all out) 577 Fall of wickets: 1-123 (Katich), 2-202 (Hayden), 3-284 (Ponting), 4-326 (Hussey), 5-399 (Watson), 6-426 (Haddin), 7-532 (White), 8-555 (Lee), 9-567 (Clarke), 10-577 (Johnson) BOWLING: Zaheer 23-5-86-0 (nb2) Sharma 25-5-84-0 (nb2, w2) Kumble 43.3-9-112-3 (nb2) Mishra 47-12-144-2 (nb4) Sehwag 40-9-104-5 Tendulkar 1-0-2-0. Overs: 179.3 INDIA 2nd innings: G. Gambhir not out 21 V. Sehwag b Lee 16 I. Sharma c Ponting b Clark 1 R. Dravid not out 5 TOTAL (for two wickets) 43 Fall of wickets: 1-29 (Sehwag), 2-34 (Sharma) BOWLING: Lee 6-1-19-1 Clark 5-2-16-1 Clarke 1-0-3-0 Katich 1-0-5-0. Overs: 13 Toss: India Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZL) and Aleem Dar (PAK) Third umpire: Suresh Shastri (IND) Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG).