West Indies reached 120-4 against England at stumps on day three of the first test at Lord's on Saturday and their hopes of avoiding defeat once again rest with Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The tourists were left trailing by 35 at stumps with six second-innings wickets remaining, but Chanderpaul, ranked as the world's No. 1 batsman, remains unbeaten on 34, having scored just four fours in a 95-ball innings.
Marlon Samuels was unbeaten on 26 and West Indies had at least avoided humiliation, losing just one wicket in the evening session, when Graeme Swann (1-21) bowled Darren Bravo for 21.
Shannon Gabriel, who took 3-60 on his test debut, was hopeful the match can be saved.
"In Shiv and Samuels we've got two experienced players," he said. "Hopefully they can bat for as long as possible and get us into a better position. I back our bowlers to do a job tomorrow.
"It was special to get my first test wicket. Obviously I bowled yesterday and didn't get one so I was thinking when is it going to come?"
A defeat inside three days loomed when they lost three wickets without scoring a run in a calamitous nine-ball spell before tea to slump to 36-3.
West Indies dominated early in the day, only to see England recover to 398 all out, after Ian Bell hit a fluent, counterattacking 61 to give the hosts a 155-run lead.
"You can always expect it (the pitch) to get flatter and flatter at Lord's," Bell said, when asked if England had been frustrated during the final session. "Obviously with Chanderpaul in the middle we're going to have to work hard to get him out. We expected them to come back (but) I guess we're two wickets away from the allrounders and the bowlers."
Bell's innings, which included four fours from 105 balls, helped seize the initiative from West Indies, which had England wobbling when it dismissed Stuart Broad early in the afternoon session.
Shannon Gabriel picked up his first test wickets to finish with 3-60, while Kemar Roach claimed 3-87, including the wicket of England captain and top-scorer Andrew Strauss, dismissed for 122 having added just a single to his overnight score.
England began the morning session on 259-3, but as the batsmen looked to accelerate, their risky approach handed West Indies a way back into the game.
Strauss fell in the fourth over of the day, the 84th, when he got an inside edge to a delivery from Roach and was caught behind.
Strauss was given not out by umpire Marais Erasmus, but West Indies asked for a referral that confirmed he nicked the ball.
Debutant Bairstow got off the mark with a panicky single, then hit two classy boundaries off his legs before breaking his bat.
Bairstow later drove Roach elegantly through cover, only to fall lbw to Roach's next ball, out for 16 after a brief but encouraging cameo.
Matt Prior opened his innings with a violent drive for four but he was clean bowled by Gabriel for 19 in the 97th over.
Tim Bresnan was caught behind for a duck off West Indies captain Darren Sammy in the following over.
West Indies was happy to have reduced England to 341-7 at lunch and happier still when Broad fell to the third ball of the afternoon session.
Fidel Edwards whipped a delivery between Broad's bat and pad, clipping the bail to bowl him for 10, but Bell and Graeme Swann launched a superb counterattack and the momentum shifted behind England again.
Bell reached his 50 from 94 balls when he pushed Roach through point. The duo put on 50 from 42 balls before Swann was bowled off his pad by Gabriel for a quickfire 30.
The innings ended when Bell holed out to Gabriel and was caught at deep square leg by Powell.
Powell was given out early in West Indies' second innings, caught behind off Anderson, but a referral confirmed he hadn't touched the ball.
Broad was then denied a wicket when Barath was dropped by Bresnan in the slips.
Powell was nearly run out by a brilliant throw by Kevin Pietersen but the breakthrough finally came when Bresnan had Barath caught behind in his first over, off a fast leg break.
Powell (8) was then caught by Bell at square leg trying to pull Broad. West Indies' misery was compounded when Darren Bravo declined a single off Bresnan only to see Edwards was halfway down the wicket.
Bravo sent Edwards back but Bairstow produced a superb throw from cover point to run him out for a duck with a direct hit to end the afternoon session.
West Indies urgently needed to take the heat out of the game and Bravo and Chanderpaul effectively blocked out over an hour of the evening session until Bravo shouldered arms to an arm ball from Graeme Swann and was bowled for 29.
Chanderpaul faced 70 balls before hitting a boundary and survived a referral shortly before stumps.
He was given not out by Erasmus but the bowler, Bresnan, appealed for lbw.
Replays showed the ball would have missed Chanderpaul's leg stump by the smallest of margins and he hit Bresnan's next two balls for four to bring up the 50 partnership, from 99 balls, with Samuels.