England went five hours without a wicket before reducing India to 297 for eight on day three of the fourth Test in Nagpur.
Virat Kohli (103) and MS Dhoni (99) combined for 507 balls and 198 runs together to blunt England's charge and take the hosts into a good position.
But once Graeme Swann trapped Kohli on his pads, India lost a further three wickets late in the day, meaning there is likely to be little separating the sides after the first innings are concluded.
It was another attritional day's cricket on a dour Nagpur wicket - just 210 runs were added in the day - but the late flurry of wickets to fall highlighted how impressive Kohli and Dhoni's stand had been.
They started the day slowly - the first 10 overs went for just nine runs - but wore the spinners down, and withstood the seamers when they were used.
James Anderson was sparingly used, bowling just eight overs in the first two sessions of the day, while Tim Bresnan bowled slower than he managed the previous evening, and grew progressively less effective.
Alastair Cook's shuffling of his bowling options bore no fruit, as the reverse swing began to fade and the tourists seemed to pin all their hopes on the new ball after lunch.
When that did not swing as well, the concern grew, and just after just three overs with the new cherry England were complaining that the ball was out of shape.
Though the run rate picked up marginally in the second session, with Kohli reaching his half-century and Dhoni following shortly afterwards, India still could not accelerate in the way that has become common in Test cricket. Patience was crucial, and despite a dearth of wicket-taking deliveries England did not offer India too many easy runs.
The respective fitness levels of the two sides has been a talking point throughout the series, and the final hour will have reinforced that point of view.
Having just reached his century from 289 balls shortly before the drinks break of the final session, Kohli returned from an on-field sit down and was pegged leg before wicket from the bowling of Swann, who was rewarded instantly for bowling around the wicket.
Ravindra Jadeja, making his debut, had glided to 12 when Anderson returned with reverse swing, an inswinger leaving the left-hander with no room and the umpire with a simple decision.
All the while Dhoni, under immense pressure, was grafting his way through the nineties. He was one run shy of the century when he took a short single to Cook at mid off. The England skipper managed a direct hit, and this opposite number was a camera frame short of making his ground.
It left the door open for England, and when Piyush Chawla was clean-bowled by Swann in the final over before stumps, a wretched day had been dramatically tidied up.
England will look to bat soon tomorrow, knowing that if they bat well on a pitch which was just beginning to offer some more consistent spin, they will be in great shape to wrap up a first series win in India in 28 years. But all three results remain very much possible in Nagpur.