Colombo:India's middle and late order batsmen came up with gritty contributions as the visitors eked out a slender 11-run first innings lead and scalped two quick Sri Lankan wickets to gain a slight upper hand in the third and final cricket Test on Thursday.
VVS Laxman (56), Suresh Raina (62), Abhimanyu Mithun (46) and Amit Mishra (40) were the notable performers as India folded up for 436 in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 425.
India then returned to remove both the Sri Lankan openers Thilakaratne Dilshan (13) and Tharanga Paranavitana (16) to leave the hosts at 45 for two in 16 overs.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara (12) and night watchman Suraj Randiv were at the crease at close of play on the third day.
Earlier, India lost Virender Sehwag (109) and Sachin Tendulkar (41) in the pre-lunch session but it was the dogged resistance from their tailenders that was largely responsible for the first innings lead.
With two days left for the match at the P Sara Oval expected to aid the bowlers, the match appears to be heading for a thrilling finish.
India, trailing the three-match series 0-1, desperately need to win the match to level the series but have the disadvantage of having to bat last on the wearing track.
Earlier resuming at 180 for two, India consolidated their position with Sehwag completed his century in style with a four off pacer Lasith Malinga before being dismissed after nine runs.
Sehwag, who consumed 105 balls in his knock of 109 with the help of 19 fours, fell to Malinga caught by Suraj Randiv at mid-off.
However, the visitors suffered the first blow when Sachin Tendulkar was out for 41 in the first over of the day.
Tendulkar, who became the most-capped Test cricketer in the match, flashed his bat on an away going delivery off Malinga without much foot movement to be easily taken behind the stumps by Prasanna Jayawardene.
Laxman and Raina then took some time to settle down on a sporting P Sara Oval pitch before steadying the visitors' innings to 282 for four at lunch.
Laxman pulled an Ajantha Mendis delivery past the square leg and followed it by sweeping the same bowler to the backward square leg boundary in that over.
As Raina gained in confidence, he drove carrom bowler Mendis for yet another boundary before giving Suraj Randiv the same treatment later on.
Raina was though fortunate that a Randiv flighted ball spun from around the off stump but it dropped well short of point fielder.
After lunch, Laxman and Raina completed their fifties but their 105-run partnership came to an end when the former was dismissed by Mendis.
Laxman, who hit a Malinga delivery to the third man boundary to reach his 50, failed to negotiate Mendis's carrom ball and squeezed it straight to Jayawardene, who took a sharp catch at first slip to leave India at 304 for 5.
Mendis came to haunt again a few overs later as he got his carrom ball to cut in from outside off stump as Raina popped it straight to short midwicket.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni also couldn't stay long and was done in by a bouncer from Lasith Malinga who had dropped it on the leg side line.
Trying to counter attack, Dhoni gloved it behind to wicket keeper Prasanna Jayawardene as India further plummeted to 350 for seven to raise hopes for Sri Lanka.
However, Mithun and Mishra fended some awkward bouncers and full length deliveries from Malinga and managed to push the Indian total further despite the departure of the specialist batsmen.
Mithun knifed a Chanaka Welegedara delivery on the off and middle line over the mid off boundary. The Karnataka lad also smashed a Mendis delivery between the bowler and the mid-off for yet another boundary.
Mishra was lucky to survive as Angelo Matthew at third slip dropped a fairly simple catch off Malinga after the new ball was taken.
However, both the batsmen were dismissed on the threshold of their half centuries and soon India folded for 436 after taking a 11-run lead in their first innings.
Sri Lanka looked good in their second innings before Sehwag cooked their goose, claiming both their openers.
The Lankans lost their first wicket when Paranavitana jabbed a Sehwag delivery and ended by nicking an edge to Dhoni behind the stumps.
Sehwag got his second wicket when Dilshan got an inside edge on to his pad.
The ball popped close on the leg side with Murali Vijay diving with an outstretched left hand to snap a fabulous catch leaving the Sri Lankans in trouble.
Earlier, Dilshan began accelerating by pulling Mithun's short delivery to the fine-leg region. It was, however, not before he had miscued the Karnataka pacer earlier with the bowl falling short of advancing Amit Mishra at fine leg.
Paranavitana then played a cut shot to a Ishant's short of length delivery from round the stumps over backward point boundary.
Paranavitana was fortunate when he flicked hard at Pragyan Ojha but Murali Vijay at short leg could not convert a very difficult catch.