Following an impressive 91 from opener Dinesh Karthik, Sachin Tendulkar was threatening to make England pay for dropping him on 20 as India finished the first day of the third Test on 316 for four at The Oval on Thursday.
Tendulkar was 48 not out and VVS Laxman 20 not out at the close of play.
Tendulkar should have been back in the pavilion when he edged Ryan Sidebottom to wicket-keeper Matt Prior when India had made 245 for three in the 67th over.
But Prior, who conceded 21 byes on the opening day, dropped the straightforward chance despite getting both hands to the ball.
India, 1-0 up, need to avoid defeat in this match to win only their third series in England in 15 campaigns dating back to 1932.
England, by contrast, have to win to maintain their six-year unbeaten run in home Test series.
Karthik's innings meant that he has scored a fifty in each of his last six Tests but that didn't ease the hurt of missing out on a hundred.
"I was definitely disappointed the way I got out," Karthik said. "There was a small nick, no doubt about that."
"We have got off to a very good start. We are happy with the way we have batted. It's important we do well in the morning. There are no totals in mind we just need to start well tomorrow, that's crucial," he said.
England coach Peter Moores, himself a former wicket-keeper for Sussex where he first guided Prior, said: "It's frustrating when you drop a chance. Matt is one of the hardest workers in the team and he would have loved to have held on to that chance, especially as it was Tendulkar."
"Matt's working hard on his game. We've all got areas to work on and he is working hard in what is a tough environment. It's mentally tough but he is mentally resilient," he said.
It seemed as if India, whose captain Rahul Dravid won the toss on a belting batting pitch, were threatening to put the game beyond England's reach before the first day ended when they were 189 for one.
But with James Anderson taking two wickets, England fought back to have India 211 for three at tea. Tendulkar was two not out and Sourav Ganguly eight not out in what could be both players last Test in England.
Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar then saw Tendulkar strike him over extra-cover for four. Ganguly later drove Panesar for a straight six.
Medium-pacer Paul Collingwood was brought on shortly before the new ball was taken and he struck with his 12th delivery when Ganguly was given out leg before wicket for 37, despite getting a thick inside edge onto his pad.
It was a poor decision by South African umpire Ian Howell and Ganguly did well to manage no more than a rueful smile as he walked off following a stand of 77 with Tendulkar.
India were now 276 for four after having resumed after lunch on 117 for one, with Karthik 50 not out and Dravid 25 not out.
In the second over after the break Karthik, on 58, gave a sharp chance but he was dropped at short extra-cover by Strauss following a drive off Panesar.
Dravid, who in India's last Test at The Oval five years ago scored 217, went on to complete an 82-ball fifty with eight fours. But a stand of 127 was ended when Dravid, on 55, was bowled by an Anderson yorker.
No India batsman has so far made a hundred in this series, but it seemed as if Karthik -- whose lone Test century came against minnows Bangladesh earlier this year -- was about to put an end to that sequence.
But nine runs short he played at a ball angled across him from Sidebottom and Prior held the straightforward chance.
Wasim Jaffer was first out, caught off an uppercut for a dashing 35 by Kevin Pietersen at third man off Anderson.