Moeen Ali struck a late counter-punch for England just as Sri Lanka threatened to take control on day three of the second Investec Test at Headingley.
Moeen, the off-spinning all-rounder, was called on to bowl only one over in the first 55 of the tourists’ second innings before being tossed the ball with master batsmen Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene setting firm foundations.
But the 27-year-old pinned Sangakkara lbw shortly after he had equalled the world record of seven consecutive Test half-centuries and then bowled Lahiru Thirimanne for a duck with a fine delivery.
Barring his intervention the hosts would be in much deeper trouble, but Sri Lanka will still be happy with their score of 214 for four and a 106-run lead, not least with Jayawardene (55no) and Angelo Mathews (24no) still at arms.
With the series up for grabs in the next two days, an England win is still possible too but Moeen’s success will have Rangana Herath licking his lips at the prospect of fourth-innings carnage.
The day began with Shaminda Eranga and Mathews tearing up England’s script for the morning session.
At 320 for six overnight they had the chance to build an imposing lead but settled for 108 after being undone in just 11.5 overs by intelligent seam bowling.
Eranga, in full control of the swinging ball, had Chris Jordan snapped up in the slips for 17 and ended the innings with a short ball that James Anderson fended straight back to him.In between Mathews took two wickets of his own en route to career-best figures of four for 44.
Having first accounted for Stuart Broad he persuaded one to jag in dramatically to Liam Plunkett and topple middle stump.
Matt Prior’s 27no was England’s only real response, lit up by a pick-up six off Eranga shortly before Anderson’s demise.