Set 531 to win by Australia, England reached 2-65 at lunch on day four with Joe Root unbeaten on 29.
On a hat-trick twice in England's first innings, Aussie quick Mitchell Johnson was threatening again.
Johnson claimed the key wicket of England captain Alastair Cook for one, while Peter Siddle removed Michael Carberry for 14.
Left-armer Johnson struck in the second over when Cook top-edged a hook shot to fine leg.
With nine wickets in Australia's victory in the first Test and 7-40 in the first innings in Adelaide, tearaway Johnson is in the form of his life at age 32.
Left-handed opener Cook plundered Australia's attack for 766 runs at 127.66 in the 2010/11 series, but so far this series has tallied 82 at 20.50.
His choice of shot on Sunday, opting to hook the fastest bowler in world cricket so early in the innings, was unusual and an indication the tourists are feeling rattled.
Carberry was also caught on the leg-side boundary.
Pietersen's 52-ball knock has included only one boundary.
A giant talent with an ego to match, Pietersen has scored a century and a double hundred in his two previous Adelaide Tests.
Expectations of another big score fell flat in England's first innings on Saturday when the 101-Test veteran arrogantly chipped a catch to short mid-wicket on four.
Two fieldsmen had been placed at short mid-wicket for that very shot.
"We know that he doesn't like to be tied down," Johnson said on Saturday night.
"We had the field set exactly how we wanted it and the plan came off."
Australia declared on Sunday morning on their overnight score of 3-132 in their second innings.
England trailed by 398 runs on the first innings after they were bowled out for 172, their third successive sub-200 total in the series.