Chasing a daunting 319, England at one stage lost three wickets for two runs – including that of struggling captain Alastair Cook for 22 – on the fourth day at Lord’s.
Earlier, Ravindra Jadeja blasted 68 off 57 balls as India scored 342 all out in its second innings.
After battering the bowlers, Jadeja made sure England’s reply got off to a dismal start. He removed opener Sam Robson lbw for seven on the first ball of his first over to put England at 12-1.
After recovering to 70-1, England was quickly reduced to 72-4.
Gary Ballance (27) pushed into a delivery from Mohammed Shami, and was caught behind by Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the wicket keeper’s 250th catch in test cricket.
Ian Bell (1) followed when he was bowled by Ishant Sharma, playing and missing a straight delivery, before Cook became Sharma’s second wicket.
Cook edged behind after making a patient 22 from 93 balls, as another innings passed without making a big score.
Those three dismissals leave England facing the prospect of going 10 test matches without a win.
Moeen Ali and Joe Root offered some resistance, finishing unbeaten on 15 and 14 respectively, but England will likely be hoping for rain on the last day.
“There is no question today that Jadeja’s innings has given them a big advantage, but it is up to us to show the fight tomorrow,” England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said. “If Moeen Ali and Joe Root can give us a good partnership tomorrow, we have got people who can come in and strike the ball cleanly. It is a pretty straightforward chat tomorrow morning.”
Earlier, Murali Vijay made 95 for India before Jadeja’s 68, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar contributed 52 as the visitors built up their imposing lead.
Resuming on 169-4, Vijay and India captain Dhoni took the tourists to 202-4 before it lost two wickets for one run.
Dhoni edged Liam Plunkett to Bell, before Stuart Binny fell for a duck. He rashly scooped a ball from Ali over midwicket where Cook took an excellent catch over his shoulder as he was running backward.
When Vijay was removed by James Anderson, he was visibly frustrated at being needlessly drawn into playing at the delivery with three figures in sight.
He smacked the ground with his bat, and his batting partner Jadeja patted him on the back as he left the crease to rapturous applause from the crowd for a battling innings.
“It was disappointing, but I will take it any day if we can pull off a win tomorrow,” Vijay said. “Ravindra played well and really helped us and obviously Bhuvneshwar is hitting the ball really well. They both put us in a very good position.”
Vijay’s dismissal saw Khumar partner Jadeja at the crease on 235-7, and they forged an eighth-wicket partnership of 99 off 100 balls which allowed India’s grip on the match to tighten.
Jadeja got his maiden half century before falling with his team on 334, edging skywards off Ben Stokes. Alastair Cook got underneath to take a catch which was similar to the one he took to remove Binny.
Jadeja has been jeered by the Lord’s crowd for his involvement in an incident with Anderson that has resulted in the England bowler facing a level three charge and a potential four-test ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC). However, he was applauded off for a match-changing innings by all four corners of the ground.
When he left, England wrapped up the innings soon after.
Shami was caught behind for a duck off Ali and Khumar, who made his third half century in the series, edged Ben Stokes to Bell at second slip for 52. Sharma was 0 not out.
Khumar was dropped by Root at fourth slip on only two runs off the bowling of Stuart Broad. While the opening session was edged by the home side, those 50 extra runs that Khumar made in the second session enforced India’s already significant advantage.
The first Test of the five-match series was drawn.