Pakistan restricted Australia to 220 in the second of the five at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Pakistan's seamers Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan bowled with great discipline to trigger Australia's collapse.
Junaid, brought into the team in place of Wahab Riaz, had two close lbw appeals against the dangerous David Warner turned down before he induced an edge to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan on 16 to leave the Australians 31-1.
Junaid soon added the scalp of Usman Khawaja when he edged to first slip Sharjeel Khan who took a fine catch low to his left.
Australia promoted allrounder Mitchell Marsh up the order but the experiment failed as he scooped the first ball he faced from Amir to Imad Wasim at cover to leave the home side 41 for three.
Travis Head then joined Steve Smith in the middle and hit five boundaries on his way to 29 before he edged Hasan Ali to Rizwan with Australia at 86 for four.
Glenn Maxwell had made 23 when he charged left-arm spinner Imad and was bowled to leave the home side 128 for five after 26 overs.
With all batsmen finding it hard to score quickly, Smith brought up a hard-fought 50 from 91 balls with only two boundaries and no sixes.
He looked to accelerate with eight overs to go but on 60 he got an inside edge on to his pads and then stumps to give Imad his second wicket.
Matthew Wade was seventh to fall six runs later on 199, bowled by Shoaib Malik for 35 before Junaid ran out a stranded Mitchell Starc off his own bowling.
Pat Cummins was caught behind after trying to hook Amir and James Faulkner skied a ball to point in Amir's next over, leaving Pakistan needing 221 to level the series.