The visitors reached 230 for six at lunch, with test debutant Stuart Binny (26) and Ravindra Jadeja (18) unbeaten at the interval after stemming the tide of wickets.
India have a lead of 191 runs and with only two sessions left in the match, an England run chase and a victory in the first of the five-match series seemed unlikely.
The tourists started the day on 167 for three, ahead by 128 runs, and aiming to bat the day out for a draw on a flat and unresponsive wicket.
A gloomy Nottingham sky, however, helped the hosts’ seam attack find some swing and they began the morning in relentless fashion, bowling perfect line and length to keep India’s batsmen under pressure for a possibly victory.
England got the early breakthrough they craved in the second over of the day when Stuart Broad got the ball to reverse swing and Virat Kohli (eight), widely considered India’s most dangerous batsmen, was trapped leg before.
Broad claimed his second victim soon after when Ajinkya Rahane fell for 24 after edging a swinging delivery through to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (11) was dropped by his England counterpart Alastair Cook off Broad but failed to make the most of his luck when Liam Plunkett sent his stumps cartwheeling out of the ground with a full delivery.
The visitors were headed for further trouble when Jadeja almost got run out trying to steal a third run but the third umpire deemed he had just managed to reach the crease in time.
England are chasing their first win in nine test matches and the first of coach Peter Moores’ second spell in charge, while India have not won a test away from home since 2011.
The last drawn test at Trent Bridge in 2002 was also played between England and India. (Reuters)