Top-order colleagues Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen shared an unbeaten 63-run stand for the third wicket to keep alive England's faint winning chance in the first cricket test against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Chasing a 340-run victory target, England finished the third day on 111 for two wickets, still 229 runs behind what could be a record successful chase in Galle.
Trott (40) and Pietersen (29) will return on Thursday, hoping to continue the good work and provide the perfect platform for their batsmen to achieve the target.
Earlier, Sri Lanka's second innings folded for 214, riding largely on Prasanna Jayawardene's defiant 61 not out.
The hosts could have ended day three on a stronger position as Kumar Sangakkara, at leg slip, missed a sharp chance offered by Pietersen off Suraj Randiv's bowling when the batsman was on 12.
Otherwise, Trott and Pietersen batted comfortably on the slow surface which is expected to give the spinners more assistance on day four.
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who claimed six English wickets in the first innings, removed both the English openers in their second.
Herath had Alastair Cook (14) caught behind by Prasanna Jayawardene before he captured the wicket of England captain Andrew Strauss (27).
Cook was initially ruled not out by the umpire, but Sri Lanka were confident of the catch and asked for a review which went in their favour.
Strauss failed to get to the pitch of the ball which was tossed up to him and was caught at short mid-wicket by a diving Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Sri Lanka owe their advantage to Prasanna Jayawardene who hit an unbeaten half-century to frustrate the England bowlers.
Sri Lanka's last two wickets made it an even more difficult run chase for England, adding 87 runs.
England, who needed to get the remaining five Sri Lankan wickets early on Wednesday after conceding a big first-innings lead, were kept on the field till mid-afternoon before they finally dismissed the hosts.
Jayawardene got vital support from tailenders Chanaka Welegedara and Suranga Lakmal, each contributing 13 runs.
The pair helped Jayawardene to stitch together partnerships of 40 for the ninth wicket and 47 for the last as England's bowlers toiled hard.
Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar eventually got rid of Welegedara when he had him caught at the gully by Strauss.
Lakmal's 29-ball resistance ended with a run out as he attempted a second run to give Jayawardene the strike but failed to beat Pietersen's throw from deep mid-wicket to the bowler.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann finished with figures of six for 82 off 30 overs, his 12th five-wicket haul in tests, while Panesar picked up two for 59.
In hot and humid conditions, Swann bowled unchanged for 15 overs in the morning to add two wickets to his overnight tally.
Panesar got the first breakthrough of the morning when he dismissed Dinesh Chandimal (31), who went for an inside-out shot but managed only to scoop the ball to Pietersen at mid-off.
His dismissal ended a 42-run sixth-wicket stand with Suraj Randiv (18).
Swann then got in on the act by trapping Randiv lbw and bowling out Herath (seven) but Jayawardene and Welegedara kept fighting.