England, chasing a first test win in 10 matches after series defeats by Australia and Sri Lanka, lost three wickets in 20 balls to leave them teetering at 72 for four.
Joe Root (14) and Moeen Ali (15) ensured there was no further damage, and will resume on Monday needing a further 214 runs for victory as England eye their second-highest successful fourth-innings chase and biggest at Lord’s.
Their target is at least 50 runs more that they would have liked, but a thrilling 99-run, eighth-wicket stand between Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar took India’s lead past the 300 mark, raising hopes of a first test win away from home since 2011.
“The point is you’ve got to turn up expecting your batsmen to get through and score the runs,” England assistant coach Paul Farbrace told reporters.
“We’ve got somebody at the crease (Moeen) who batted all day at Headingley two test matches ago (against Sri Lanka), got a hundred against all the odds and they’d have been a lot of people on that day not expecting us to still be at the crease at 7pm and fighting for our lives.
“Unfortunately the penultimate ball finished the game but it was a magnificent fight.
“Yes, there is no question today that Jadeja’s innings has given them a big advantage, but it’s up to us to show the fight tomorrow that we did at Headingley.”
Having lost Sam Robson for seven in a tricky period before tea, Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance set about building a platform after the break.
They put on 58 for the second wicket before Ballance (27), who hit 110 in the first innings, was caught by Mahendra Singh Dhoni from the first ball of Mohammed Shami’s second spell, a hint of away movement taking an edge.
In the next over, Ian Bell (1) missed a straight ball from Ishant Sharma to leave his side struggling at 71 for three, and shortly afterwards the willowy right-armer also got rid of the out-of-form Cook for 22, caught again by Dhoni behind the stumps.
England’s captain, without a test century in over a year, has now scored 115 runs in his last seven innings, the pressure on the 29-year-old likely to increase further after this latest failure.
“Nothing has changed, absolutely nothing has changed,” Farbrace said of Cook.
“We all want him to score runs and I think we saw today everyone in the ground wants him to score runs. We’re very much behind him, the team is very much behind him, he’s practised really well for the last few days… he is feeling that a score is close.”
With Matt Prior and Ben Stokes both struggling for form, much rests on the shoulders of Root and Moeen should England have any hope of avoiding defeat on the final day.
Earlier Jadeja and Kumar put on 99 runs in 100 balls as they hit the England attack to all corners of the ground.
Jadeja, frequently booed by the Lord’s crowd over a clash with England paceman James Anderson during the drawn first match at Trent Bridge, brought up his maiden test half-century off 42 balls before falling for 68.
Number nine Kumar continued his fine start to the series, passing 50 for the third time in four innings, having taken career best bowling figures of 6-82 in England’s first innings.
He was last man out as India were dismissed for 342.
Opener Murali Vijay top-scored, falling five runs short of a ton when caught by Prior off Anderson shortly after the new ball was taken after spending over six hours in the middle.
“It was disappointing but I’ll take it any day if we pull off a win tomorrow,” Vijay said of missing out on his fifth test century.
“The game is really well placed. We’ve got four wickets and they’ve got 100. Ravindra is spinning the ball well and hopefully he can get us an early breakthrough tomorrow. The pitch is doing a lot for the spinner because of the footmarks, and they have six left-handers so it’s going to be tough for them.” (Reuters)