Jonathan Trott was England's cornerstone as they adopted extreme measures for extreme conditions to try to close out a famous series victory in India.
Trott (66no) appeared in his element on this uniquely lifeless pitch at the VCA Stadium, England crawling to a stoic 161 for three while India's frustrations simmered on day four. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had earlier declared India's first innings on 326 for nine, four runs behind in a match England need only draw to hang on for a 2-1 success.
By stumps, thanks mostly to Trott and latterly in an unbroken half-century stand with Ian Bell, they were surely just one more session of batting away from overturning 27 years of history.
Alastair Cook and fellow opener Nick Compton set the tone as they concerned themselves with crease occupation. Five minutes before lunch, Compton edged Ravichandran Ashwin for the first boundary of the day by either team, while Cook needed 27 balls to register his first run.
The captain's strike only got marginally better in a 93-ball innings of 13, during which he became England's highest all-time Test runscorer in India. After Cook went, unluckily for the second time in the match, when caught-behind off Ashwin where video replay suggested there was none, Trott tore up the template by sweeping his very first ball for four.
England's accumulation of breathing space remained a tense business, however, relieved just for a moment when one delivery slipped from Ravindra Jadeja's hand and barely trickled in Trott's direction. He was quickly out of his crease to smash the stationary ball past square-leg, for just the fourth boundary of the innings.
On the stroke of tea, England lost Compton to Pragyan Ojha. The initial scorecard entry was lbw, despite an apparent inside edge on to pad, but the ball looped for a gully catch anyway. Kevin Pietersen escaped a sharp chance on two to Virender Sehwag at slip off Jadeja but could add only four more before the same bowler bowled him.
The flashpoint which followed soon afterwards betrayed the gravity of the situation for India, in evident danger of losing a Test series at home for the first time in eight years. Trott was given not out caught behind to the animated distress of both bowler and wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Ishant did not let the disagreement lie, following through in his next delivery to make the point again to Trott and when Dhoni and others persisted in making their annoyance known to the officials at the end of the over, they risked both censure - and more importantly, augmenting the cussed Trott's determination.
So it proved as England's number three ground on to complete a priceless 106-ball 50, and by stumps he had kept India at bay for almost 50 overs. Trott's partnership with Bell took England from double-figures to beyond 150 - a position of relative comfort, barring a collapse on Monday.