London: Alastair Cook sat on the brink of a half-century in his final Test innings as England ended day three against India leading by 154 runs.
Cook will retire at the conclusion of the final Test of a series England lead 3-1 and looks set to finish with a flourish, with the home side sitting on 114-2 in their second innings ahead of the penultimate day at The Oval.
The former captain's stand came after India had reduced their deficit to 40 with a haul of 292 from their first innings, thanks in no small part to impressive contributions from Hanuma Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja.
Vihari, who would have been out lbw for a duck if England had reviewed on Saturday, racked up 56, while Jadeja managed an unbeaten 86.
But this Test was always going to be about England's record run scorer and, with two days to go and a first-innings 71 already in the bag, Cook is on course to rise to the occasion.
India had been 160-6 on Saturday but found Jadeja in inspired form as they came close to reeling in England's total.
But Cook ensured India's momentum stopped there, providing a typically assured presence at the top of the order.
Keaton Jennings will be in no hurry to watch back the Mohammed Shami delivery that ended his innings at 10 - his complete misjudgement of the ball cleared a path to his off stump.
Moeen Ali did not last much longer as he reached 20 before being bowled by Jadeja, but Cook will return on Monday opposite the reassuring figure of his successor as skipper Joe Root.
Root found the boundary on five occasions to sit on 29 runs at the end of day three.