David Warner's quickfire half-century threatened to steer Australia to a series-clinching victory over England in the third one-day international in Sydney.

The opener, who could have been run out without facing a ball, crashed 71 from 70 balls with Australia in hot pursuit of England's 243 for nine.

He appeared set for more, before driving Ben Stokes to cover, but by the time he departed Australia were already well-placed at 122 for two after 21 overs.

Eoin Morgan passed 50 for the third time in the series but while England's top six all made double figures, their failure to push on for more loomed as costly.

Number eight Tim Bresnan's unbeaten 41 - which included consecutive sixes in the final over - was the best of the rest while skipper Alastair Cook showed signs of returning to form, with 35 from 36 balls.

Morgan hit 54 before he was involved in a confrontation with Australia skipper Michael Clarke after Dan Christian claimed a low catch in his follow-through.

Morgan waited for the replays to confirm what Clarke heatedly chose to tell him, and non-striker Jos Buttler, was a fair catch.

There was enough doubt to understand Morgan's reluctance to walk away, with the TV pictures showing Christian only just managed to get his fingers under the ball.

Christian's athleticism underlined a razor-sharp Australia fielding display.

Clarke himself took a memorable low catch with his non-preferred right hand to dismiss Ben Stokes, but Warner provided the highlight with a direct-hit run-out from deep point to catch Ian Bell short.

It was a moment to reflect the differing fortunes between these teams, as Warner then survived a run-out before he had faced a ball.

Ravi Bopara missed the opportunity, at cover point, with Warner having already given up.

With a total that appeared below par, England needed to take their half-chances and Warner set about making them pay.

He clubbed Bresnan's second ball for a straight six and brought up his half-century from 56 balls and including five fours.

Chris Jordan did strike early when Aaron Finch picked out Bopara at cover, before Warner fell in the same manner when Stokes returned to the attack in the 20th over.

A mid-innings malaise with the bat looked set, however, to cost England after openers Cook and Bell had set off with a run-a-ball 50-run stand.

Cook hit five fours and a six, easing Nathan Coulter-Nile (three for 47) over the square-leg rope, as he raced to 35.

But after correctly reviewing an lbw call, the skipper failed to add to his score when pushing Coulter-Nile to cover.

Bell, who was dropped by Finch at short point, was then caught out by Warner's moment of brilliance in the outfield as Australia fought back.

England elevated Stokes, after out-of-sorts Joe Root was omitted, but he laboured to 15 from 39 balls before falling to more excellent Australia fielding as Clarke dived forward to hold on at backward square leg.

It was reward for Doherty, who in tandem with fellow spinner Glenn Maxwell allowed just 38 in 13 overs and put the clamps on.

England were therefore again losing their way mid-innings and when Gary Ballance picked out the deep cover fielder off Coulter-Nile, after taking 42 balls for his 26, they were 121 for four in the 29th over.

The onus was again on Morgan, the centurion at the Gabba, to revive matters.

Bopara offered support in the second half-century stand of the innings only to edge behind the final ball of the batting powerplay.

Crucially Morgan and Buttler, who smashed a century stand in Brisbane on Friday to get England to 300, quickly followed him.

After Morgan's debated dismissal Christian, one of three Australia changes, then caught Buttler in two minds with a slower ball he chopped on to his stumps.

When Stuart Broad, back after his two-game break, skied straight up in the air England had lost 21 for four at a time acceleration was required.

Bresnan supplied some much-needed late hitting, clearing the mid-wicket rope when Christian bowled the final over, but England had work to do with the ball.