Galle (Sri Lanka), Mar 27: Offspinner Graeme Swann took 4-28 in leading England's fightback to restrict Sri Lanka's second innings to 84-5 and a 209-run lead after two days of the first test on Tuesday.
England conceded a 125-run first-innings lead to Sri Lanka.
Opener Lahiru Thirimanne and senior batsmen Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera were all dismissed within 31 overs, leaving Sri Lanka 72-5.
Earlier, spinner Rangana Herath took 6-74 to end England's first innings for 193 in reply to Sri Lanka's 318.
A total of 17 wickets fell during the second day's play, 12 of which to spinners as the pitch at Galle International Stadium offered sharp turn and bounce.
Dilshan had another poor innings being bowled out without scoring in the second innings by seam bowler Stuart Broad. He made 11 in the first innings.
Swann who had been rusty in a wicketless first innings conceding 92 runs, tasted success when he bowled Thirimanne with a flighted delivery that turned across the left-hander and hit the off stump.
Jayawardene, who made a classy 180 in the first innings, pushed at a delivery that turned in but managed only to edge the ball to James Anderson at slip on 5.
Swann found the edge from Sangakkara on 14 for a catch to Ian Bell at slip, and had Samaraweera stumped by Matt Prior for 36, the best score of the innings so far.
When stumps was called, Dinesh Chandimal was unbeaten on 17 and nightwatchman Suraj Randiv on 2.
Jayawardene said his team will be comfortable defending a total of at least 250, but that England's batsmen were better than what they showed on the field Tuesday.
"They are a quality batting unit, they've got about six or seven good batters. We need not be complacent just because they got bowled out in the first innings, we have to do the hard work tomorrow with the bat and if we get to bowl as well the same stuff."
"It's not going to just happen for us, it will be a tough test match to win from now on," said Jayawardene.
Praising Herath for his bowling, Jayawardene said the left-armer has done well in leading a less fancied spin attack following the retirement of ace offspin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan.
Bell was disappointed that England's batsmen failed again and insisted they are working hard on improving playing on spin-friendly pitches on the subcontinent.
"Yes. It's a real shame, it's not through a lack of effort. Disappointing not to back up our bowlers, again they've been outstanding for a fourth test match this winter."
"We know that we have to get better playing in the subcontinent. It's a long-term goal and it's not going to happen overnight, we are working as hard as we can," Bell said.
Sri Lanka resumed the day at 289-8 and seam bowler James Anderson bowled tailender Chanaka Welegedara for 19 to end a frustrating ninth-wicket partnership of 54 with Jayawardene.
Anderson finally ended the innings when Jayawardene was caught behind by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
After reaching his 30th test century on Monday, Jayawardene's knock finished after 315 balls, 22 boundaries and three sixes.
Anderson, with 5-72, earned his 12th five-wicket haul in tests.
England's reply wasn't good. The visitors went to lunch at 57-3, already mesmerized by Herath, and lost the rest of the wickets in the second session.
Seam bowler Suranga Lakmal gave Sri Lanka a bright start, dismissing in-form opener Alastair Cook with England yet to score.
England captain Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott made a promising 40-run partnership before Herath flighted a ball and lured Trott out of his crease to be stumped for 12.
Three runs later, Strauss tried to sweep a full-length ball from Herath and was struck on the pad, but umpire Asad Rauf turned down a confident appeal. Jayawardene decided to review and won the decision. Strauss made 26.
Left-arm seamer Welegedara broke through in the second session bowling out Kevin Pietersen off the inside edge for 3 and Herath accounted for most of the middle order.
Bell was the only top-order batsman who looked confident against Herath, topscoring with 52. His innings included eight boundaries and a six.
The visitors could have been out for a much lower total but for some late hits by tailenders Broad (28) and Anderson (23 not out).
Herath completed his eighth five-wicket haul in test cricket.