Should Alastair Cook's tourists fail to eke out their remaining six wickets for this final day of the series, they would become the first from England to lose here since 1983-84.
A 1-0 outcome would detract significantly from a winter in which new captain Cook led his team to hard-earned victory in India, ironically England's first Test success there since the year after their last defeat in New Zealand.
Their fifth-wicket pair had other ideas, though, and there were few alarms on the way from a start of play 90 for four to 127 without further loss.
Bell began with just eight runs from 89 balls, and was still breaking no speed limits with 23 off 144.
On a pitch showing no signs of wear, he and Root calmly marked time against the old ball - the theoretical victory target of 481 having long since become irrelevant.