Colombo, Sri Lanka: England were all out for 230 in their second innings Sunday setting Sri Lanka the mammoth task of scoring 327 to win the third and final Test and avoid a series whitewash.
Coming back from 39-4 in the morning session, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes (42) and Ben Foakes (36no) got the runs that left Sri Lanka facing a mountain to climb with two days left to play.
Dilruwan Perera took Keaton Jennings lbw with the first ball of the day lbw to shake England, and took five wickets in all. But after the top order scare, spinner Lakshan Sandakan made two basic blunders that set the tone for the tourists' recovery.
The left-arm spinner had Stokes caught at cover on 22, then at slip on 32, only for replays to show Sandhakan had overstepped the bowling line on each occasion.
England scored 336 in their first innings and Sri Lanka 240.
Earlier, Stokes and Buttler dug England out of a dangerous hole after another top order collapse saw the tourists in trouble against Sri Lanka on Sunday as they sought a winning lead.
Stokes and Buttler took England's second innings from 39-4 to 110-4 at lunch on the third day, building a strong 204-run lead despite some heart-stopping escapes that may cost Sri Lanka the match.
Left-arm spinner Sandakan had Stokes caught at cover on 22, then at slip on 32, only for replays to show he had overstepped the bowling line on each occasion.
Stokes was on his way back to the dressing room when he was recalled both times. He shook his head in disbelief as he walked off for lunch.
Buttler was given out lbw on 27 to part-time off-spinner Dhananjaya de Silva, but the decision was overturned when the ball was projected to be travelling over the stumps upon review.
Sri Lanka started the day brilliantly with Dilruwan Perera taking Keaton Jennings lbw with the first ball of the day when England resumed on three for no wicket.
Perera soon had Rory Burns lbw for seven and first-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow caught at short leg by substitute fielder Kaushal Silva.
Left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara took England captain Joe Root caught and bowled for seven leaving the tourists in trouble.
Buttler made 38 off 39 balls, while Stokes went to lunch on 32 off 53. They struck three boundaries each, but went for sweeps and reverse-sweeps that brought valuable runs and left Sri Lanka facing a mountain when they bat.