Nagpur, Dec 14: India have a huge battle on hand in the fourth and last Test, having been reduced to 87 for four against England's first-innings score of 330 at the close of the second day's play here Friday.
England gained the upper hand in the last session when they grabbed the crucial wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir, after claiming Virender Sehwag in the first over. England pace spearhead James Anderson picked three for 24.
On a pitch which continued to play slow and low, England's lower order batsman fought gallantly to post a decent total. Debutant Joe Root led the way with a fine 73 while Matt Prior (57) and Graeme Swann (56) came up with valuable half-centuries.
The hosts made a poor start, losing Sehwag for a duck off the third ball of the day as India reached 32 for one at tea. Anderson produced an excellent inswinger that blew away Sehwag's middle stump.
Gambhir (37) and Pujara (26) tried to resurrect the innings but a poor decission ended their 58-run stand. Pujara was caught at short-leg by Ian Bell off Swann, but replays showed that the ball smacked Pujara's forearm and not the glove.
It triggered a mini collapse as India slumped to 71 for four from 59 for one.
Tendulkar's poor run of form continued as he was castled by Anderson with a delivery that kept low. Gambhir was next to go, poking at an away going delivery from Anderson and was caught behind by Prior.
It was then left to Virat Kohli (11) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (8) to see the team through the day without further loss.
With still three days left in the match England, who are lead 2-1, are now well placed to clinch their first series win on Indian soil in 28 years.
Earlier, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla bagged four wickets to wrap up England's first innings for 330 runs.
England scored slowly in the morning after resuming at 199 for five. But Root and Prior with their 103-run stand for the sixth wicket took the English to a position of strength.
Root and Prior didn't look in a hurry even as runs were flowing slowly on a difficult track.
Prior got to his 24th Test half-century in style by cutting a shorter ball from Pragyan Ojha through cover-point for four. Root also got to his maiden half-century soon off Ravichandran Ashwin and was well applauded by the crowd and the England dressing room.
Ashwin, however, struck in his next over to remove the dangerous looking Prior, who was bowled by a delivery that didn't turn.
Fast bowler Ishant Sharma struck next to get rid of Tim Bresnan, who didn't trouble the scorers.
England, who were at 277 for seven before the start of the lunch session, had Swann to thank for crossing the 300-mark. The off-spinner struck 56 off 91 balls which included six fours and two sixes.
Swann in his zeal to score quick runs tried one too many things and was trapped leg before in front of the stumps by the diminutive spinner.
Anderson (4) was the last wicket to fall for the visitors, lobbing an easy catch to the short-leg fielder.