The fortunate dismissal of Sourav Ganguly gave England a late lift on what was a tough opening day to the crucial third Test against India.
Needing a win to avoid a first home series defeat since 2001, Michael Vaughan's bowlers struggled on a flat pitch, the tourists closing on 316-4.
Ominously for the hosts Sachin Tendulkar was unbeaten on 48 at stumps, though it could have been a different story had Matt Prior not dropped him on 20.
The wicketkeeper's error could prove extremely costly in the long haul as the Oval pitch looks full of runs.
Dinesh Karthik top-scored with 91 while Rahul Dravid managed his first half-century of the series after winning the toss and choosing to bat first.
The only blot on an otherwise excellent day for his side was Ganguly falling shortly before the second new ball was due.
After battling hard to reach 37, the left-hander was given out leg before by umpire Ian Howell, despite the fact he had edged the ball into his pads.
Even with the disappointment of the poor decision, India - leading the series 1-0 after their seven-wicket win at Trent Bridge in the second Test - will be happy with their efforts.
An opening stand of 67 got them off to the perfect start and England struggled to pose much of a threat with the new ball.
They were gifted a much-needed wicket when Wasim Jaffer (35) cut a short ball from James Anderson straight to Kevin Pietersen stationed at third man.
That breakthrough was a rare highlight in the morning session, Dravid coming to the crease to join Karthik to continue the excellent scoring rate of over four runs an over.
The pair put on 127 and were making serene progress until Anderson struck again by bowling the India skipper with a late away swinger that hit the base of middle stump.
Karthik perished soon after, edging Ryan Sidebottom through to Prior to depart just seven runs short of what would have been a well-deserved Test century.
England were adamant the opener had hit the ball attempting a lavish drive outside off stump, though replays suggested it had not touched the bat.
Official Howell sided with the fielding team on that occasion, though, and also upheld their appeals for leg before against Ganguly after tea.
Tendulkar, who was forced to deal with plenty of short stuff from England's three seamers at the start of his innings, carried on to move within touching distance of yet another Test 50.
With VVS Laxman at the crease alongside 'The Little Master', and with Mahendra Dhoni still to come, India will have high hopes of batting their opponents out of the match, therefore clinching a rare series victory on their travels.