Kolkata: A spineless India were on the verge of a second successive humiliating defeat in their own backyard against England who were within sniffing distance of an emphatic victory in the third cricket Test here on Saturday.
After conceding a mammoth 207-run lead, India's famed batsmen put up a pathetic display but R Ashwin (83 batting) and the tailenders delayed the inevitable as the hosts reached 239 for nine at close on the penultimate day.
Ashwin, who flopped as a bowler, provided some resistance as the last two wickets added 80 runs after being at a precarious 159 for eight at one stage, forcing the game to stretch into the fifth day with India having a slender lead of 32.
With one full day left, England were on course for a huge win and take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
India got off to a good start with Virender Sehwag (49) and Gautam Gambhir (40) putting on 86 runs but the innings completely came apart after the lunch break with wickets falling with embarrassing ease on an Eden Gardens track, which gave some assistance to the bowlers.
While the Indian bowlers looked completely ineffective, the English bowlers exploited the conditions far better and raise hopes of their first series win on Indian soil in 28 years.
After the humiliating 10-wicket defeat in Mumbai, the hosts once again seemed clueless in their own den with neither batting nor bowling clicking against an English side which was the one expected to struggle on the sub-continental dustbowls.
Steve Finn (3/37), James Anderson (2/38) and Graeme Swann were (2/70) were the wicket-takers for England.
Barring Ashwin, none of the Indian batsmen showed the stomach for a fight out as they perished to poor strokes. Cheteshwar Pujara (8), Sachin Tendulkar (5), Yuvraj Singh (11), Virat Kohli (20) and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (0) were the big guns who failed to fire on a track in which England posted 523 in the first innings.