Colombo:Indian veteran Sachin Tendulkar hit a defiant unbeaten 39 but Sri Lanka tightened the screws on the third day of the second cricket Test on Wednesday.
India, replying to Sri Lanka's mammoth first innings score of 642-4 declared, lost the important wicket of Venkatsai Laxman in the post-lunch session to move to 243-4 by tea.
Laxman (29) put on 68 for the fourth wicket with Tendulkar before he was leg-before to unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis just before the tea break.
Tendulkar, the world's leading run-getter in both Test and one-day cricket, batted doggedly for two hours and 17 minutes to keep India afloat at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
He had a lucky escape on 29 when wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene failed to grasp a head-high catch as the batsman attempted to slice a ball from Dilhara Fernando to third man.
Debutant Suresh Raina was the other batsman at the crease with India still 200 runs away from avoiding the embarrassment of a second successive follow-on in the series.
Sri Lanka lead 1-0 in the three-match series, having won the first Test in Galle by 10 wickets against the world's top-ranked team.
India, who were 165-0 at one stage, collapsed to 173-3 in the morning session after rookie off-spinner Suraj Randiv grabbed two wickets and Mendis claimed one.
Openers Virender Sehwag (99) and Murali Vijay (58) put on 165 for the first wicket when Sri Lanka hit back by removing both batsmen in the space of 11 deliveries.
Sehwag was one run away from his 21st century when he rushed out to loft Randiv's first ball of the day, missed the line and was stumped.
Sehwag, who hit 15 boundaries in his typically aggressive knock, missed a century in four successive Tests with the rash stroke.
He had made 109 and 165 in the last two home Tests against South Africa in February and 109 in the opening match of the current series.
Vijay, after compiling a confident half-century, was dismissed in the next over when he misread a googly from Mendis and was caught plumb in front of the wicket.
Randiv, who replaced the retired world bowling record holder Muttiah Muralitharan, struck a second time before lunch when he trapped Rahul Dravid leg-before for three.