England bowled New Zealand out for 174 before Alastair Cook ensured a watertight lead of 296 on day three of the second Investec Test at Headingley.
Steven Finn and Graeme Swann starred with the ball, taking three and four wickets respectively, while Cook ended the day with 88 not out in a score of 116 for one.
But the final session felt a touch flat after they neglected to enforce the follow-on - the margin for which had been reduced from a 200-run lead to 150 due to the day one washout.
England’s first-innings 354 left them 180 ahead going into the second innings but while Cook made hay, Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott batted so conservatively that they contributed a combined 18 runs in 114 deliveries.
If the weather holds for the remainder of the match a home win seems inevitable, but should the rain return Cook may be forced to ponder his decision not to ask the Black Caps to bat again.
England will also be forced to scrutinise Compton’s position after a wretched knock.
The Somerset opener’s return of 39 in four innings this series invites pressure and today’s knock of seven in 45 balls was a deflating experience for all concerned.
The first 25 minutes of the day unfolded as if scripted by New Zealand, England losing their last three wickets for 17.
Danger man Matt Prior added just one to his overnight score of 38 before nicking Tim Southee to slip, while Trent Boult completed a five-wicket haul by seeing off Finn and James Anderson in quick succession.
If that left England’s seamers licking their lips, they initially struggled as the new ball stubbornly refused to swing.
After a bland opening burst, Peter Fulton (28) and Hamish Rutherford (27) reached 50 in 74 balls, a sign of how innocuous England’s seamers had been in the period.
Finn was the man to make the breakthrough, finding just enough bounce to take Fulton’s leading edge.
The ball looped in the air and provided a simple return catch.
Finn was buoyed and added the scalp of Rutherford just before lunch, beating the outside edge three times a row before finding it at the fourth attempt.
At the interval they were 62 for two and it only got worse after the restart.
A little movement off the seam brought Finn a third wicket when Ross Taylor played on for six and then it was over to Swann.
Having missed the tour of New Zealand with an elbow injury and barely been needed at Lord’s, he was going in search of his first Test wicket of the year.
By the end of his second over, he had three.
It took Swann six balls to strike, drawing Dean Brownlie out with drift and then spinning the ball through the gate to take out off stump.
The same combination of drift and turn sent new man Martin Guptill packing after just five balls and Kane Williamson joined the procession with an lbw that was turned down on the field but approved on referral.
At 82 for six, New Zealand were in dire straits.
Brendon McCullum and Southee repaired things to the tune of 37 runs but any further inroads were prevented when Stuart Broad went full and straight to Southee.
He was lbw for 19, but only after another astute review.
Swann’s fourth success saw Doug Bracewell held at silly point by Ian Bell and when Brendon McCullum was ninth out for 20 - waving the bat to a tester from Broad - the innings looked over.
Respite arrived from two unlikely sources, with a dashing last-wicket stand of 52 from Boult and Neil Wagner.
Boult (24no) stunned England by launching Swann for three sixes down the ground, while Wagner took 18 from a single Broad over before Anderson bowled him for 27.
Cook opted not to send New Zealand in again, frustrating some fans who sensed blood.
One benefit of England’s decision was the chance to see Compton bat again.
Instead, Cook took the lion’s share of the strike and despatched a flurry of early boundaries in the absence of Boult, off the field with a side strain.
By the time England’s 50 arrived, Cook had 43 of them to Compton’s three.
Cook’s ninth boundary, an expansive cut off Wagner, took him past 50 but Compton’s stagnant knock ended unhappily.
After 21 balls without scoring, he was gone for seven - Williamson having him caught off bat and pad.
The scoring slowed to a crawl as Trott blocked almost everything, but Cook continued to find occasional boundaries to inch closer to his 25th Test hundred.