The world No 1 Test batsman made 82 before holing out off Jack Leach to bat England out of the game as Australia declared on 186-6 to set Joe Root’s side a victory target of 383.
Cummins then removed Rory Burns and Root in the first over as England’s chances of saving the game plummeted in the closing stages of an eventful day in Manchester with the hosts ending the day on 18-2.
Just a couple of hours prior, England had briefly raised hopes of another highly improbable win when Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer reduced Australia to 44-4 but that notion was soon dismissed as Smith got to work, dominating a 105-run stand for the fifth wicket with Matthew Wade (34).
Three wickets from Mitchell Starc (3-80) had seen England bowled out for 301 earlier in the day, a first-innings deficit of 196, with Jos Buttler making 41 to ensure they avoided the follow on.
The day began with Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow (17) at the crease in England’s first innings but after a solid start a full, fast and in-swinger from Starc pegged back Bairstow’s middle stump and broke the partnership.
Four overs later, Stokes (26) was gone, his watchful knock ended as Starc hit the perfect line a fraction outside off stump and found the edge with Steve Smith on hand to gobble up the chance at second slip.
Archer (1) followed after fiddling needlessly outside off and nicking behind off Cummins – and his furious reaction suggested he knew it was a poor shot.
That was the trigger for Buttler to move through the gears, hitting Nathan Lyon (0-89) for a pair of boundaries in the next over. He and Broad (5) battled through to lunch but the latter was bowled soon after the restart with England still 15 short of avoiding the follow-on.
Leach (4no) came out to a rapturous reception from the Old Trafford crowd after his efforts in the third Test at Headingley and soon after a boundary, thumped through the covers by Buttler, confirmed that Australia would have to bat again. England progressed little further though as Cummins (3-60) bowled Buttler in the next over.
England needed a fast start with the ball and they got it when Broad trapped David Warner lbw with the last ball of the first over, the sixth time he has dismissed the left-hander in the series as the Aussie opener departed without scoring for the second time in the match.
Marcus Harris did not fare much better, taking a review with him as he walked off for six, another lbw victim for Broad (2-54), and when Archer had Marnus Labuschagne (11) leg before three overs later, England sensed an opportunity.
Archer had a few words for Travis Head (12), who was more than happy to go back at the fast bowler, but it was the England man who had the final say by flattening the left-hander’s middle stump as the Manchester crowd roared their approval.
As ever though, Smith was proving harder to shift and England’s opening bowlers could not keep going forever – eventually taken out of the attack – each having bowled an excellent nine-over spell.
Smith and Wade, who also enjoyed a verbal exchange with Archer, took Australia out of trouble either side of tea and took the attack to England from the start of the evening session with Smith finding gaps in the field time and again in his own typically unorthodox style.
He eventually fell 18 runs shy of a century when he picked out Stokes at long off, trying to hit Leach over the top having managed just the 293 runs in the match.
Wade followed soon after, superbly caught behind by Bairstow off Archer (3-45), and having swung the bat for a further 3.3 overs, Tim Paine (23no) decided enough was enough and made the declaration.
England were left with half an hour to bat before the close but were in disarray after just four balls. First, Rory Burns (0) sent a leading edge to Travis Head at cover and with the next ball Cummins had his second, bowling Root (0) with a stunning delivery that nipped away and took the top of off.
Joe Denly (10no) and Jason Roy (8no) made it through to stumps but with a full day’s play expected on a wearing fifth day pitch, it will take a gargantuan effort from England to keep the series alive heading in the final Test of the series