An inspired Anderson took four wickets for four runs off 13 deliveries, while Onions applied such concerted pressure in taking four for 58 that even the desperately obdurate and attritional Marcus North was beginning to become agitated at one point.
When Onions clutched the ball at the City End, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a highlights package as he sent first Shane Watson, then Mike Hussey back to the pavilion with the first two balls of the day.
The unfortunate fans who had graciously opted to get the first round of lagers in were left to rue the fact that they'd ignored the cardinal rule of cricket spectating: never leave your seat when Onions is opening the bowling on the second morning of an Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
The ever-thoughtful Onions had consolation for those brave beer martyrs, however: he ensured that they didn't miss an Ashes hat-trick by bunging in a bouncer with the third ball.
Watson was the first to meet his fate, reacting to a sharp delivery from Onions with such delayed lethargy you wondered if somebody had switched his Red Bull for a can of extra-strength Benylin.
Hussey then followed with the very next ball, shouldering arms so extravagantly you wondered if he had heard that Ian Bell at short leg had a developed form of swine flu.
Ponting created history (see below), but he was soon confined to a watching brief on an increasingly despondent Australian balcony after Onions located his outside edge. As one placard had it: 'England have history, Australia had previous.' Ricky Ponting had both within the space of three deliveries.
'Big-game Belly' then did a rabbit impression with his hands poking above his helmet as he copped one on the fingertips from a Michael Clarke drive at short leg, but 'Nemo' was trapped plumb in front by Anderson in the next over.
Marcus North took 23 painstaking minutes to get off the mark with a miscued glance down to third man, but he departed for 12 after Matt Prior snaffled a stonker of a catch, doing a Stretch Armstrong impression to his left.
Mitchell Johnson was the next batsman to trudge back to the pavilion, paying such close attention to studying Anderson's technique that he clean forgot to play the ball and was rapped on the pads to depart for a golden duck.
Graham Manou survived the hat-trick ball from Anderson, but was not able to steady the ship, and Peter Siddle followed the deputy wicket-keeper with a look of thunder after Anderson struck for a fifth time.
To say that Ravi Bopara is a dubious presence, bordering on a liability, in the field would have been an understatement after he dropped a catch off Onions so simple that Ben Hilfenhaus already had his bat firmly tucked under his arm. The fielder looked as if he were balancing on a wobble board as he juggled the catch first in, then out, then shaking all about in his hands before the ball struck the turf.
Hilfenhaus clutched the handle of his bat as if he were wielding an axe, but the tail-ender shared a 34-run last-wicket partnership with Nathan Hauritz to haul his side up to 263 before he became Onions's fourth victim.
England's openers came to the crease looking to turn the screw, but Alastair Cook departed so quickly for a duck that those punters who'd headed for the bar between innings probably returned to their seats wondering why Bopara was opening the batting.
Bopara didn't last much longer for his 23, leaving Bell - the man Shane Warne bullied into submission in his previous two Ashes series - walking out to the middle with all the confidence of a badger crossing the M6. Yet despite looking utterly petrified throughout, and especially so during a shaky start, he batted with certainty and conviction.
The timid local boy, who apparently coats his bat in primrose oil to make it smell nice, must have been relieved to not be ridiculed by his old adversaries, with only the menacing Siddle snarling ominously at fine leg.
You have to feel sorry for Mitchell Johnson: the one time he managed to pitch the ball in line with middle stump, half way up, it thumped Ian Bell on the pad.
Umpire Rudi Koertzen inexplicably shook his head, however.
"I suppose that one was going under the stumps then, Rudi?" Johnson would have been entitled to ask.
"Look Mitchell, I would have given it if I could have seen the stumps," Koertzen might possibly have replied, "but the batsman was obscuring them, so how could I have known?"
It was a rare chance for the beleagured bowler: for all that Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke had gushed over Johnson's revelatory performances in the Edgbaston nets, the day proved nothing if not that bowling at coloured cones is a different proposition to confronting Bell in front of a baying and unsympathetic Edgbaston crowd.
Johnson might have been lucky to be on the pitch, but one player perhaps unlucky not to be on it made a brief appearance as Phil Hughes came on as a replacement fielder. Cow has yet to confirm rumours that he tweeted the following from his mobile phone while on the field: "I hope the ball doesn't come near me after last night's Jager-bomb sesh. LOL!"
Strauss clearly had his burgeoning average in mind when he decided to leave the field for bad light as if Koertzen were offering him a free pint on the ICC members' tab - it was a strange, if safety-first move with his side in such a dominant position.
SHOT OF THE DAY: England's new number four Bell danced down the track and hammered a huge six straight over the Hauritz's head to send the partisan Edgbaston faithful into raptures. The local lad then sheepishly re-took his guard as his name was chanted relentlessly for the remainder of the over.
STAT OF THE DAY: Ricky Ponting usurped Allan Border as Australia's leading Test run-scorer in the first session of the day, nurdling the ball into the leg side for a single to notch his 11,175 career run in his 134th match. After overhauling Border's long-standing record, the Australia captain swiftly departed for 38. Perhaps he wanted to get back to the dressing room to watch the replay of his historic moment.
USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "I am sitting here in the middle of the night in Cambodia where they don't have cricket on TV, just God-awful karaoke songs and weird soap operas where the women cry and the men look sad and confused. The only way to keep up-to-date is to stare at the computer screen and follow the updates. Hmm. There must be more to life than this!" (Wiggy contemplates the meaning of his existence and the travails of the Cambodian entertainment industry).
- Graham Onions
- James Anderson
- Ricky Ponting
- Marcus North