LONDON (AFP) - Rahul Dravid's third century of the series kept England at bay as the hosts went in search of a 4-0 whitewash at The Oval.
India were 218 for six in reply to England's first innings 591 for six declared, still a deficit of 373 runs and 174 shy of avoiding the follow-on, at lunch on the fourth day of the fourth and final Test here on Sunday.
But at least Dravid, renowned for his concentration, was at the crease on 109 not out.
And this innings he at last found found a useful ally in Amit Mishra (38 not out), who drove off-spinner Graeme Swann for six off the last ball before lunch, in a seventh-wicket stand so far worth 81.
Dravid's hundred was all the more impressive as for the second time this series Dravid had made a hundred while opening, a position, he says he does not like, in the absence of Gautam Gambhir.
Left-hander Gambhir had been unable to bat in his usual position after suffering concussion while falling in a failed attempt to catch Kevin Pietersen on Friday.
Dravid, remarkably the only century-maker in a powerful India batting line-up this series, had previously made 117, when Gambhir missed the second Test at Trent Bridge with an elbow injury, following his 103 not out at Lord's.
His 35th Test century took him one in front of childhood hero and India great Sunil Gavaskar's mark of 34 and fourth in the all-time list behind team-mate Sachin Tendulkar (51), South Africa's Jacques Kallis (40) and Australia's Ricky Ponting (39).
Dravid's one moment of concern Sunday came when he was nearly run-out on 61 by Pietersen after a mix-up with India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
India resumed in the desperate position of 103 for five after a top-order collapse against James Anderson and Swann.
Dravid wad 57 not out and Dhoni five not out.
Dhoni, who never looked settled, was out for 17 when he pushed tentatively at an Anderson outswinger and was caught behind to leave India 137 for six.
Dravid sped through the 90s with three fours in four Swann balls, a sweep and a late cut preceding his elegant advance down the pitch to create a half-volley he clipped through mid-wicket.
A late cut two off Tim Bresnan took Dravid to a 168-ball century in three-and-three-quarter hours with 15 fours.