India lost a few quick wickets but recovered sufficiently to make a push for an improbable victory on the fifth day, though a draw appears the most likely result, in the second and final Test against England in Mohali.
After bundling out England for 302 in the first innings, the hosts were 44 for 3 at one stage but accelerated the pace of scoring late on Day 4 to reach 134 for 4 at close, an overall lead of 285 runs.
Opener Gautam Gambhir (44) and Yuvraj Singh (39) were at the crease at stumps, on a day that saw England's victory hopes being completely shattered.
With just one day left in the match, a draw or an Indian victory are the only possible outcomes, though the hosts will have to show more urgency to force a result.
With fog expected to delay the start of the game on the final day of the Test, India may not get the required time to force a result and it remains to be seen what target captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will set the visitors, who trail the two-match series 0-1.
As his 39-ball 40, including five fours and a six would suggest, suggests, Yuvraj looked the only Indian at ease against an England attack that put up a disciplined performance.
Gambhir's was a patient 155-ball knock that included just three fours.
Considering the attacking cricket that has of late been their trademark, India's star-studded top order cut a sorry figure against the likes of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who both did everything to make life difficult for the hosts.
The English seamers completely straitjacketed the Indians in the post-lunch session, which yielded only 47 runs in 23 overs, and cost India the wickets of Virender Sehwag (17), Rahul Dravid (0) and Sachin Tendulkar (5).
Early signs, however, looked positive. Gambhir looked his fluent self, hitting Anderson for two boundaries in the first over of the innings. Sehwag, however, did not look convincing; the right-hander scored his first run through a streaky lemon cut. Two boundaries off Anderson promised a lot before an agile Ian Bell cut short his stay. The opener had hit the ball hard back at the bowler (Broad), who deflected it, prompting Sehwag to set off for a risky single.
From short extra-cover Bell darted, picked the ball and dived straight on to the stumps, catching Sehwag way short of his ground.
The long-awaited century in the first innings was expected to do a world of good to Dravid's confidence, but he was back to square one again, looking thoroughly unconvincing before Broad squeezed one through his gate to rattle his stumps for a 19-ball duck.
Tendulkar came amid thunderous applause that is reserved for him wherever he goes. But the Mohali Test turned out to be a highly forgettable outing for the Mumbaikar, who followed his first innings score of 11 with a five.
Tormented by Broad right from the start, Tendulkar guided Anderson to gully only to find Graeme Swann, and at 44 for three India did not look like the team that had a clear edge in the match.
Gambhir and VVS Laxman (15) found the going really tough. By then, boundaries had become a rarity and singles were not easy to come by either.
England lifted their fielding standard as well to stifle the runs and Laxman returned run-out after an almighty mix-up with Gambhir.
Yuvraj announced his arrival with two fours off a Monty Panesar over and soon India's 100 came after 45 painstaking overs. There was no respite for Panesar as Yuvraj went after the left-arm spinner, hitting him all over the park. Once in the stand that went at a run-a-ball rate and suddenly scoring looked easy.
Earlier in the morning, heavy fog resulted in a two-hour delay. Off-colour so far in the match, Harbhajan Singh made amends by claiming three of the last four wickets to hasten England's collapse.
The visitors in fact lost their last six wickets for meagre 22 runs.
Spin colleagues Harbhajan and Amit Mishra opened the attack for the hosts in the morning and the off-spinner struck with his seventh delivery of the day which kissed Matt Prior's (2) blade and Mahendra Singh Dhoni neatly collected the ball down the leg side.
Harbhajan claimed his second wicket of the day in the very next over. Stuart Broad (1) proved a terrible judge of the turn as he left the ball alone only to see it straighten and knock back his off-stump.
Replacing Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan struck in his second over, rattling Graeme Swann's (3) stumps before Harbhajan dropped curtains on the innings, claiming Monty Panesar (5) as England fell 151 runs behind India's first innings total of 453.