Dilruwan Perera missed a century on his debut while skipper Angelo Mathews fell for 91 as Sri Lanka frustrated Pakistan in the third and final Test in Sharjah on Friday.
Perera (95) and Mathews made life difficult for Pakistan through their 112-run seventh wicket stand before Sri Lanka declared their first innings at 428-9, leaving Pakistan to score 19-0 in a tricky six overs before the close of the second day's play.
Openers Ahmed Shehzad (five) and Khurram Manzoor (14) survived an anxious time as Pakistan go in search of a big lead to square the series after losing the second Test by nine wickets in Dubai.
Sri Lanka, leading the series 1-0 after the first Test ended in a draw in Abu Dhabi, are aiming to seal the series.
The day once again exposed the flat Sharjah stadium pitch as Mathews put 73 for the sixth wicket with Prasanna Jayawardene (35) and then batted solidly with Perera, leaving Pakistani bowlers frustrated and failing in their search for quick wickets.
The 31-year-old Perera, who made his one-day debut in 2007 but had never played a Test before, looked more solid during his 305-minute batting as he drove and pulled with perfection before hooking paceman Mohammad Talha into the hands of deep fine-leg.
He hit 12 boundaries and two sixes and added an invaluable 72 for the ninth wicket with Shaminda Eranga (25 not out).
Perera said: "I am really happy to score 95, sad to miss the hundred but it's still an achievement considering Pakistan had two of the best spinners in the world," said Perera, whose 95 is the highest overseas score by a Sri Lankan on his debut.
Mathews once again anchored the Sri Lankan batting, defying Pakistan's bowling for six hours before he fell to a miscued drive off paceman Junaid Khan who finished with figures of 3-81. Talha finished with 3-99 while spinner Saeed Ajmal had 2-120.
Mathews, who hit 91 and a career best 157 not out in the drawn first Test in Abu Dhabi, took full advantage of the drop caught and bowled chance by Talha on Thursday when on nought, by hitting five boundaries and a six off 256-balls.
Junaid said Pakistan will have to bat better.
"It's a tough wicket but that's part of Test cricket to make an effort to get wickets. We have to bat better than Sri Lanka to win," said Junaid.
Resuming at 220-5, Sri Lanka's batsmen batted solidly in both the sessions.
Pakistan did waste their second referral when Mathews, on 34, was given not out by English umpire Richard Kettleborough, and TV replays showed the ball missing the stumps. In the end it was Talha who had Prasanna, the only wicket in the morning session.
Mathews continued in the same style, hitting Junaid for a boundary, and in his next over took a single to complete his 13th half-century. He continued to bat with authority before his dismissal just before tea.
Perera and Eranga continued to frustrate Pakistan bowling, with Perera hitting Ajmal for a four and six to bring up Sri Lanka's 400.