RahulDravid's 35th Test century wasn't enough to avoid follow-on as Graeme Swann returned to torment India's top order in their second innings at The Oval on Sunday, putting England on the brink of inflicting a 4-0 whitewash on the visitors.
But the visitors were still 162 runs away from making England bat again with just seven second innings wickets left as they fight to save the Test and stay at No. 2 in the ICC Test rankings.
At Stumps on day four, SachinTendulkar at (35) and night-watchman AmitMishra (8) were at the crease.
Earlier, England enforced the follow-on after Dravid scored his third century of the series and carried his bat through with an unbeaten 146. But since he didn't find support from any other batsman, India's first innings ended at the score of 300 just before Tea.
After Swann's three wickets that reduced India's first innings to 103/5 at the end of day three, it was the turn of pacers on Sunday. While Tim Bresnan ended with three wickets, James Anderson and Stuart Broad took home two apiece.
In the morning, overnight batsmen Dravid and MS Dhoni began cautiously with India still needing 288 runs to avoid the follow-on. But they could take India's score only as far as 137 when James Anderson's swing accounted for the Indian skipper.
A short-of-length delivery by the England swinger sucked Dhoni (17) into a poke and the edge went straight to Matt Prior.
But the worry for India was that AmitMishra came out to bat instead of the concussed GautamGambhir, putting doubts over his further participation in the game.
But Dravid continued to stand tall among India's ruins in England with his third century on this tour, which was his 35th in Test cricket.
The ton also took Dravid past Sunil Gavaskar's 34 Test centuries, while placing him fourth on the list of all-time Test centurions.
For the first time in the series, the Indian tail showed some resistance in the form of Mishra. The leg-spinner, though started scratchily, gained confidence in Dravid's company, and played strokes that one doesn't really associate with tailenders.
Both took India to lunch at 218/6 with an undefeated partnership of 81 runs for the seventh wicket. However, it still looked a tall order for India, who needed another 174 runs to make England bat again.
But a diving catch by Ian Bell in just the fourth over after Lunch bowled by Bresnan ended Mishra's vigil.
Mishra (43) added just five runs to his score before an attempted pull hit high on his bat and the mistimed shot was caught one-handed by Bell positioned at short leg.
That finally brought Gambhir to the wicket, but with seven wickets down already, it was all a bit too late in the day for the visitors.
To his credit, Gambhir did show courage to stand up when peppered with short-pitched stuff, but it's difficult to keep that kind of bowling out when you are not feeling 100 per cent.
That's exactly what happened with Gambhir (10), who fended a rising Broad delivery that took his glove for a simple catch in the slips for Kevin Pietersen.
After that, it was just a matter of time before England wrapped up RP Singh and S Sreesanth. However, Singh did surprise the English bowlers with his 25 off 23 balls, but Bresnan came back to dismiss both the tailenders in quick succession.
That ended India's first innings exactly at 300, the first time they touched the mark in seven attempts on this tour. Still leading by 291 runs, Strauss chose to enforce the follow-on.
Dravid once again strode out with Sehwag to open India's second innings. After a flashy stroke off the innings' very first ball, Sehwag settled down and with Dravid, took India to 25/0 at Tea, still trailing by 266 runs.
Following the Tea interval, it seemed India will post its first fifty opening partnership in a long time. But at 49, England's decision to review the umpire's not-out call against Dravid gave Swann and England their first wicket.
Dravid (13) stood his ground after the umpire turned down a bat-pad catch close-in. Strauss used the DRS, but despite no conclusive evidence even on 'Hot Spot', the third umpire gave Dravid out, fueling the DRS debate even further.
And 15 runs later, whatever little promise Sehwag showed was undone by Swann, who went through his defences to bowl him for 33.
SachinTendulkar and VVSLaxman then started probabily their last Test innings in England. While Laxman continued to look scratchy, Tendulkar was positive in his strokeplay. And on clipping Swann for a single to reach the score of five, the little master reached another milestone by completing 33,000 international.
But Laxman failed to convert another start and lost his off-stump to Anderson for 24, leaving India in trouble at 118/3.
India then sent in Mishra as nightwatchman, who did well to block his end and take India to 129/3 at Stumps, with Tendulkar at 35.