The fifth-wicket pair resumed on a vulnerable 87, but by lunch had taken their stand to 75 out of 146 for four in reply to England's 330 all out.
The tourists, 2-1 up and optimistic of closing out a famous series victory here, got nowhere on a dead pitch which has proved an aid to stagnant cricket from the outset.
It took more than half-an-hour for India's first boundary off the middle, 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.
If there was a continued absence of attacking intent, necessarily on this ultra-slow surface, to India's credit there was not the semblance of alarm either.
Anderson beat the bat or found the edge a handful of times in his early spell, but there was nothing else from pace or spin to raise England's hopes.
The half-century stand arrived in 28 overs, a worthy effort in the circumstances but one on which India will need to build very significantly - and a little more quickly too at some point - if they are to have any chance of a series-levelling win.
- Sports & Recreation