Jonathan Trott's half-century put England closer to a series win in India as they closed day four of the fourth Test 165 runs ahead.
Trott reached 66 not out at the close, the key half of a 67-run partnership with Ian Bell, as England reached 161-3 in their second innings.
India had eked out another 29 runs in a ponderous first hour of the morning, before declaring their first-innings on 326, four runs behind their visitors.
With the home side needing a victory in Nagpur and just two days of cricket left to play, it was a baffling start to the day, cutting precious time out of the match.
England were in a touch of trouble at 94 for three, but the pitch still offered minimal spin and prising wickets out remained very difficult.
Nevertheless, England held their nerve, and if they avoid catastrophe on day five, they will complete a first series victory in India for 28 years.
If India find they run out of time, they will have nobody to blame but themselves. Ravi Ashwin chose to protect Pragyan Ojha in the first overs of the morning, reducing the run rate to a one-an-over crawl. England looked content to allow them the runs, and even when the message came through to speed up, it made little difference. Just 29 runs were added in an hour's play, with England setting deep defensive fields and India scarcely taking a risk.
On paper, declaring from behind as MS Dhoni did was a bold move - but as a statement of intent it was negated by what had gone before.
England were obdurate in response, with Alastair Cook and Nick Compton adding 17 runs from 13 overs to complete a dour session, even in the context of a dour match.
There were thousands of fans outside the stadium queueing for tickets from seemingly a single kiosk - most missed the entirety of the morning's play, and it was hard to tell whether they should be disappointed or not.
The afternoon followed a similar pace - at one point Cook had one run from 53 balls - but for the second time in the match it was a poor decision from Umpire Kumar Dharmasena that accounted for him. Ravi Ashwin spun one across his bat, missed the outside edge by an inch or two, but was still given out caught behind.
Nick Compton, who made another even-paced start to his innings of 34, also fell on the stroke of tea, given lbw to Pragyan Ojha. It was the wrong call again - Dharmasena missed an inside edge - but on this occasion it was a moot point, as the ball was also caught.
Kevin Pietersen's dismissal, with six runs to his name was the ugliest of them all, however - just as Trott had done in the first innings, he shouldered arms to a ball from Ravindra Jadeja which stayed straight and hit off stump.
Trott had worked out where his off stump was, though he did have to ride his luck on occasion. Early in his innings Jadeja went up for an lbw appeal which was turned down - had India had recourse to technology, the ball would have been shown to be hitting leg stump and the decision would have been overturned. In the final session too, India thought he had edged Ishant Sharma behind to the wicketkeeper, only to be turned down.
There were heated exchanges between Virat Kohli and the two batsmen, and Dhoni and the umpires - there was nothing conclusive on the replay to suggest an edge, nor did the Snickometer pick up a noise.
Bell played with a confidence that belied a poor tour to date, and Indian heads went down in the final hour. The game is not yet dead, but it will require something remarkable to force a result.