The fifth-wicket pair resumed on a vulnerable 87 on Saturday morning, but by tea had taken their partnership to 156 out of 227 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.
Kohli (77no) and Dhoni (75no) nonetheless deserved significant credit for faultless application as India battled back into contention.
Gradually, without compromising their risk avoidance, they pushed the run rate above two-an-over as England tired in their thankless task to try to induce a mistake.
It took more than half-an-hour for India's 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.
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.
Each batsman passed his 50 with a four, Kohli's fourth driven off Monty Panesar and Dhoni's seventh square-cut off Bresnan. But those were rare shots in anger until after England took the second new ball.
The century stand had arrived in 53 overs as India had to emphasise caution over adventure before they could dare to hope of pushing for a series-levelling victory.
Runs started to come more freely, however - Dhoni hoisted Graeme Swann over long-on for a six, and took toll of Bresnan in particular - and England's high early hopes turned to frowns of frustration.
The nearest they came to a breakthrough were Bresnan's two lbw appeals, and a tough one-handed return chance barely off the ground - all with Dhoni on 72 - as the Yorkshireman's search continued for a first Test wicket since August at Headingley.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tim Bresnan