The tourists had toiled for 75 wicketless overs as India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (99) and centurion Virat Kohli (103) closed them down with some ease, but both had gone by the time stumps was called, along with Ravindra Jadeja (12) and Piyush Chawla (one), as the quartet of dismissals came for just 28 runs.
Dhoni and Kohli resumed on a highly vulnerable 87, yet by stumps their stand of 198 had underpinned India's 297 for eight in reply to 330 all out. Respite came when Graeme Swann had Kohli lbw and Dhoni was run out by a direct hit from Cook as he tried to scamper his 100th run off Anderson (four for 68) in the penultimate over before stumps.
Dhoni and Kohli were constrained, as were England's batsmen and India's top order before them, by the extreme conditions. Gradually, without compromising risk avoidance, they pushed the run rate above two-an-over as England tired in their thankless task to try to induce a mistake.
Kohli completed his 289-ball hundred with his 11th four, on the back foot past cover off Swann. Soon afterwards, the off-spinner finally got his revenge, as India nonetheless edged towards parity.
It had taken more than half an hour for their first boundary off the middle on Saturday morning, a Kohli cover-drive off Tim Bresnan to bring up three figures. Before then, only Dhoni's edge past a vacant slip off James Anderson had counted four.
Each batsman passed his 50 with a four, Kohli's fourth driven off Monty Panesar and Dhoni's seventh square-cut off Bresnan. They were rare shots in anger until after England took the second new ball.
The century stand arrived in 53 overs as runs eventually started to come more freely. Dhoni hoisted Swann over long-on for a six, and took toll of Bresnan in particular. The nearest England came to a breakthrough before tea were Bresnan's two lbw appeals, and a tough one-handed return chance barely off the ground - all with Dhoni on 72.
England appeared destined to draw a blank for the entire day, for the first time since Australia's Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh tormented the home attack at Trent Bridge 23 years ago, until Kohli succumbed. Anderson then also had Jadeja lbw from round the wicket and Swann bowled Chawla when he found sharp turn with the last ball of the day.
It had seemed near inconceivable at start of play that India could somehow negotiate their way towards a series-levelling win. Whether or not that is possible will depend on how long it takes England to take their last two wickets, and how many India can score at the same time.