England must bat for at least another three sessions to be sure of a famous series victory in India, after their hosts declared four runs behind on the fourth morning of the final Test.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni closed India's innings on 326 for nine, and left England an awkward first hour of batting in a match the tourists need only draw to hang on for a 2-1 series success.
Their captain Alastair Cook and Nick Compton duly achieved the necessary initial crease occupation but, as has befit conditions in Nagpur from the outset, found few scoring opportunities on the way to 17 for none in 13 overs.
It was symptomatic of the extreme and turgid lack of pace in this pitch that, five minutes before lunch, Compton edged Ravichandran Ashwin for the first boundary of the day by either team.
Sixty runs per session has been the norm here, and on that basis England can perhaps hope to be 200 in front if they manage to bat until lunch on Monday. Only then could they start to be confident they might be out of range and impervious to a last-ditch series-levelling run chase from India.
Cook therefore had one more mission as he tries to overturn 27 years of history - since the last time England won a series here - in his first assignment as permanent Test captain.
It took him 27 balls to register his first run today - and when he pushed Ishant Sharma for that scampered single, having made just one run in the first innings, he had mustered two from 55 deliveries in the match. Compton was in no hurry either, but England knew the wickets column was all-important.
India began on Sunday morning on 297 for eight, after losing four wickets in the last 14 overs on Saturday night.
Their cagey early tactics, in a match they need to progress, were questionable - and in the first half-hour, brought them just 10 runs, all in singles as Ashwin tried to farm the strike.
They almost doubled that rate, for the loss of Pragyan Ojha who played on in defence to give Monty Panesar his only wicket in 52 overs, before Dhoni called the last pair in.