Having been frustrated by the last-wicket stand late on day four, England needed just 10 balls to finish it the following morning, with James Anderson bowling Pragyan Ojha, leaving Ravi Ashwin stranded on 91.
It left England with a mere 41 runs to chase, but India, opening with their two main spinners, sparked a little panic in the tourists by reducing them to eight for three.
Alastair Cook, looking to get the match over in a hurry, was out stumped for one in Ashwin's first over.
Ojha then got in on the act, trapping Jonathan Trott in front of the stumps for three, before a duck for Kevin Pietersen, tickling Ashwin behind to MS Dhoni, left England reeling.
The statisticians were frantically checking the history books for lowest scores and smallest totals defended - but Ian Bell, who had scratched around with the bat all series, settled the nerves with a run-a-ball innings of 28, including some confident boundaries which will give him a much-needed boost ahead of the final Test. Nick Compton, who had not batted with any other player in his England career other than his captain, was also unbeaten on nine.
The final Test begins on Thursday in Nagpur, with England's advantage in the series now unassailable, and the tourists within sight of a first series victory in India in 28 years.