KOLKATA  - A spineless India were on the verge of a second successive humiliating defeat against England in the third Test on Saturday.

After conceding a mammoth 207-run lead, India's famed batsmen put up a pathetic display but R Ashwin (83 batting) delayed the defeat as hosts reached 239/9 at close on the penultimate day. Ashwin provided some resistance as the last two wickets added 80 runs after being at a precarious 159 for eight at one stage, forcing the game to stretch into the fifth day with India having a slender lead of 32.  England were on course for a huge win and take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series. India got off to a good start with Virender Sehwag (49) and Gautam Gambhir (40) putting on 86 runs but the innings completely came apart after the lunch break with wickets falling with embarrassing ease on an Eden Gardens track, which gave some assistance to the bowlers.

English bowlers exploited the conditions far better and raise hopes of their first series win on Indian soil in 28 years. After the humiliating 10-wicket defeat in Mumbai. Steve Finn (3/37), James Anderson (2/38) and Graeme Swann were (2/70) were the wicket-takers for England.

None of the Indian batsmen except Ashwin showed the stomach for a fight out as they perished to poor strokes. Cheteshwar Pujara (8), Sachin Tendulkar (5), Yuvraj Singh (11), Virat Kohli (20) and skipper MS Dhoni (0) were the big guns who failed to fire on a track in which England posted 523 in the first innings.

Gambhir was again involved in a run out mix-up, for the second time in the match, with Cheteshwar Pujara (8) becoming the victim this time. The English turnaround came in the post-lunch session as India lost six wickets for 36 runs as their fight to save the match went up in smoke.

Earlier, the first session belonged to India who dominated the proceedings -- both with the ball and bat -- for the first time in the match. First, India scalped four wickets in 4.3 overs to restrict England's first innings lead to 207 as they managed to add 14 runs to their overnight total.

Then, Indian openers Sehwag and Gambhir showed a lot of positivity when they came out to bat in the second innings as they raced to 86 for no loss at lunch but only to go down the drain after the break. Swann got one to rip back through Sehwag's gate taking the top of the off stump to break the opening partnership for 86.  But without building on a partnership what followed was another dismissal as Gambhir once again helping England in another run-out.

Earlier, India started the day with some promise, when they bowled England out for 523. Ojha, who was the most successful Indian bowler with 4/124, struck in his very second ball of the day when Swann (21) edged one at first slip to be dismissed without any addition to the total.

Off-colour Zaheer also got into the act, picking his first wicket of the match after bowling 30 overs when the left-arm pacer's in-cutter took Matt Prior's nick before being caught by Dhoni.

The second blow for England with addition of just one-run to the overnight total of 509 opened the gates for India as Ashwin took two wickets -- Anderson (9) and Panesar (0) succession to wipe out the tail, but not before they conceded a huge lead.

scoreboard

India 316 & 239/9 (83.0 ov)

England 1st innings (O/N 504/6)

AN Cook run out (Kohli)    190

NRD Compton bw b Ojha    57

IJL Trottc Dhoni b Ojha    87

KP Pietersen lbw b Ashwin    54

IR Bell c Dhoni b Sharma    5

SR Patel c Sehwag b Ojha 33   

MJ Prior c †Dhoni b Khan    41

GP Swann c Sehwag b Ojha    21

ST Finn not out    4

JM Anderson c Sehwag b Ashwin    9

MS Panesar lbw b Ashwin    0

Extras: (b 13, lb 4, nb 5)    22

Total: (all out; 167.3 overs)    523#

FOW: 1-165, 2-338, 3-359, 4-395, 5-420, 6-453, 7-510, 8-510, 9-523, 10-523

Bowling:Z Khan 31-6-94-1, I Sharma 29-8-78-1, R Ashwin 52.3-9-183-3, PP Ojha 52, Yuvraj Singh 3-1-9-0,

India 2nd innings:

G Gambhir c Prior b Finn    40

V Sehwag b Swann     49

CA Pujara run out (Bell)     8

SR Tendulkar c Trott b Swann     5

V Kohli c Prior b Finn     20

Yuvraj Singh b Anderson     11

MS Dhoni c Cook b Anderson     0

R Ashwin not out     83

Z Khan lbw b Finn     0

I Sharma b Panesar     10

PP Ojha     not out 3

Extras: (b 8, lb 2)     10

Total: (9 wkts; 83 overs)     239

FOW: 1-86, 2-98, 3-103, 4-107, 5-122, 6-122, 7-155, 8-159, 9-197

Bowling: JM Anderson 15-4-38-2, ST Finn 17-6-37-3, MS Panesar 22-1-75-1, GP Swann 28-9-70-2, SR Patel 1-0-9-0

Toss: India, who chose to bat