Lewis Hamilton topped the final practice session in Melbourne on a morning when Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher put it in the gravel.
Despite the track being dirty at the start of the session, Nico Rosberg and team-mate Michael Schumacher were quickly out, putting in the laps.
However, Schumacher paid for his early run as, missing his braking point, the German flat-spotted his first set of Pirelli tyres.
While Schumacher was having his misfortunes, Rosberg posted the day's first P1, a 1:26:982.
As the session progressed and the track was cleaned, the lap times tumbled. But throughout it all, it was the Mercedes duo who featured at the front - at least until the final five minutes.
That was when Romain Grosjean came to the fore, Lewis Hamilton went second and Schumacher joined Vettel in the gravel.
Vettel was the first driver - and German - not to see the end of FP3 when he went off at Turn Six.
Spinning off backwards, the Red Bull racer narrowly avoided the barriers but his session was over as his car was beached.
A few minutes later, Vettel was joined in the gravel by Schumacher, who went off at Turn Nine.
With the yellow flags lifted three minutes before the end of Practice Three, there was a dash to see who could finish on top.
That honour belonged to Hamilton, who clocked a 1:25.681 to eclipse Grosjean's best by 0.077s.
Mark Webber was third, 0.219s off the pace, while Jenson Button was fourth ahead of Rosberg, Schumacher, Vettel and Sergio Perez.
01. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.681 18 laps
02. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m25.758 + 0.077 21 laps
03. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.900 + 0.219 20 laps
04. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.906 + 0.225 17 laps
05. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.929 + 0.248 23 laps
06. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.078 + 0.397 14 laps
07. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.211 + 0.530 12 laps
08. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m26.470 + 0.789 17 laps
09. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.632 + 0.951 20 laps
10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.723 + 1.042 17 laps
11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.733 + 1.052 15 laps
12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.737 + 1.056 19 laps
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.755 + 1.074 21 laps
14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m27.029 + 1.348 23 laps
15. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m27.119 + 1.438 20 laps
16. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m27.323 + 1.642 19 laps
17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m27.428 + 1.747 22 laps
18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.023 + 2.342 19 laps
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m28.341 + 2.660 19 laps
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m28.702 + 3.021 11 laps
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.728 + 5.047 13 laps
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.225 + 5.544 14 laps
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m33.114 + 7.433 12 laps
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m33.261 + 7.580 13 laps