India were 174 for six in reply to England's first-innings 332, a deficit of 158 runs, at stumps on the second day of the fifth Test at the Oval on Saturday.
Test debutant Hanuma Vihari was 25 not out, with Ravindra Jadeja unbeaten on eight.
India suffered a huge blow before the close when captain and star batsman Virat Kohli, the leading run-scorer this series, was caught at second slip by England skipper Joe Root off Ben Stokes for 49.
Earlier, England scored over a hundred runs in Saturday's morning session after resuming in trouble on their overnight 198 for seven.
Jos Buttler, on his 28th birthday, made 89 -- the fourth time in England's last five Test innings he has been the top-scorer -- before he was last man out, caught at slip off Jadeja, a left-arm spinner.
Jadeja, playing his first match this series, led India's attack with four wickets for 79 runs in 30 overs.
England lead this five-match contest 3-1.