Skipper Michael Clarke hit a hundred and, while DRS also took some of the headlines, it was the tourists piling up 303-3 that really made the news.
Here's what the papers made of the first day's play.
Malcolm Conn - Herald Sun
"During Australia's trials and tribulations this year the quality of Michael Clarke as a cricketer has been forced into the background. Player suspensions, coach sackings and six successive losses have made unsavoury news, but on day one at Old Trafford all the reasons why Wisden named Clarke its reigning Cricketer of the Year came shining through in brilliant sunlight. His 24th century and 10th as captain has left Australia in a strong position after the opening day of the third Test, a welcome change of momentum with England leading 2-0 in the series. Unbeaten on 125 at stumps with Australia 3-303, Clarke's latest hundred puts him in the most elite company.
Derek Pringle - Daily Telegraph
"Michael Clarke has split Australia with his quirky captaincy but he would have united the country with a Test hundred that was both classical in nature and crucial in its timing. Yesterday, in front of a sell-out crowd at the new Old Trafford, he delivered in the third Investec Test a captain's innings to give him and his team some wriggle room as they closed on 303 for three to head a Test match for the first time in the series.
Malcolm Knox - Sydney Morning Herald
"In 1936-37, the only Ashes series won from a 0-2 deficit, Australia's captain scored a century in each of the three victories. Two were doubles, one a single. 'Sadly, no,' Michael Clarke said this week when asked if he had a batsman the calibre of Don Bradman to draw upon. He certainly didn't see himself in that exalted role. But on Thursday Clarke gave a taste of what would be needed, and a glimmer of - it is premature to speak of hope - the kind of leadership Australia requests of its batting champions.
"The course of the day brought to mind one of those football matches when wooden-spooners shock premiers. Australia seized their moment with an energetic determination born of repeated failure. This time, the batsmen were stating, they would be taken seriously. England, by contrast, were sullen in attitude and inert in tactics, like a team that had forgotten how to play from behind.
Chris Barrett - Melbourne Age
"Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland has sought a please-explain from the International Cricket Council over a flabbergasting umpiring decision that saw Usman Khawaja sent on his way on the first day of the third Test. Khawaja's dismissal before lunch was mystifying and maddening. If New Zealand umpire Tony Hill's raising of the finger, adjudging Khawaja to have edged a Graeme Swann delivery to England wicketkeeper Matt Prior was not bad enough, the decision by third umpire Kumar Dharmasena not to overrule it after the batsman had called for a review was barely believable.
"There was no Hot Spot evidence of contact with the bat, nor a noise or deviation from the bat, and in fact replays showed Khawaja's bat had instead flicked his pad, hence the Snickometer reading of a slight sound just before the ball arrived. Dharmasena, who just happens to be the ICC's umpire of the year, saw something else, however, and ordered the Australian No.3 to depart.
Mike Selvey - Guardian
"A belting pitch, sublime summer sun and a century from Michael Clarke. There really are days when the cricket world is not such a bad place to inhabit. The crowd crammed into Old Trafford and for their money were treated to nothing less than a masterclass from the Australia captain that helped put his side in the driving seat on the opening day of a Test match they simply have to win to retain an interest in the Ashes. By the close, Australia had taken full advantage of winning the toss for the first time in the series. England bowlers, for once, looking footsore, weary after a debilitating day in the heat and humidity, disgruntled at their lot with umpires, the decision review system and the footholes, and not a little bereft of ideas.
Paul Hayward - The Telegraph
"Manchester was a good place for a lad from Liverpool, in New South Wales, to turn this round, not through prima dona-ish sulks or tirades at less gifted colleagues, but with an innings of conviction and grace. The only active Australian Test batsman with an average higher than 50, Clarke is a delight when his feet are moving quickly, his shoulders are hunched over the shot and the ball is forced with smooth economy past diving fielders. This was just such a day: a day of brightness and rebirth, on which the captain's pre-match bravado ("we can still win this series") seemed less hollow. One good day with the cudgel will not reverse England's superiority, but at least Australia's main problem has been cured for now.
Wayne Smith - The Australian
"If any Australian batsman was going to score a century in this Ashes series it was always going to be the captain, Michael Clarke. And so it was today as he batted Australia into a commanding position on the first day of the Old Trafford Test.
Martin Samuel - Daily Mail
"He said the batsmen had to stand up. And on Thursday the captain of Australia took his own advice. He stood up. Michael Clarke stood firm from before lunch right through to the close of play and intends standing his ground today, too. Because Clarke stood up, so did Australia. They stood up to England, properly, for the first time this summer. No fluke or fairytale, this. In lieu of resistance this summer, Australia have turned up tales of the unexpected instead.
Ian Botham - The Mirror
"It was bound to happen at some point and finally the floodgates opened: A front-line Australian batsman scored a big hundred. Michael Clarke is one of the best players in world cricket, so nobody should be surprised that he came good at Old Trafford - there have been another 23 Test hundreds like that one. I've been happy to criticise when the Aussies have failed this summer, so let's give Clarke the credit he is due. He played beautifully, with shots all round the wicket, and by scoring at a healthy lick he's put his side in a commanding position.
Nasser Hussain - Daily Mail
"It is a shame that we were again talking about the decision-review system on Thursday but you could honestly say that it did not actually alter the course of the first day of the third Test. For me the system is working. What is happening, though, is that the third umpire has been confusing what is actually a simple process at times during this Ashes series. And what controversies there have been have been more about the standards of umpiring than the merits of DRS. The use of technology is not there to make every decision a hundred per cent right. It is there to help the umpires get more decisions right and at times that distinction has been blurred. The only time something went wrong with it was in the dismissal of Usman Khawaja.