England’s collapse on a demoralising day three of the second Test left them in a perilous position against Pakistan in Dubai.
The tourists faltered alarmingly to Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah, losing their last seven wickets for 36 runs, to be bowled out for 242 before lunch and concede a yawning first-innings deficit of 136.
When Pakistan then consolidated, with half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq (87no), Younus Khan (71no) and Mohammad Hafeez (51) in a stumps total of 222 for three, at the exact halfway point of the three-match series England had well and truly found the sand in this desert.
Following much promise in the drawn first Test and sterling efforts here for two days after losing the toss, England made plenty of their own trouble - albeit against a high-class combination of pace and spin from Wahab (four for 66) and Yasir (four for 93).
At a venue where 137 is the highest successful chase to date - from a sample size of just eight matches - and on a pitch expected to provide increasing help for spin, England’s task batting last will be a daunting one.
They hit back fleetingly with a new-ball wicket each for James Anderson and Mark Wood, but had precious little room for manoeuvre.
In Anderson’s admirable spell of 4-4-0-1, he claimed Shan Masood’s wicket for the fourth time in as many attempts when the left-hander was caught behind.
Jos Buttler was making instant amends for dropping Masood down the leg-side off Stuart Broad, and first-change Wood soon had Shoaib Malik edging an attempted drive on to his stumps.
Hafeez and Younus took over until their stand of 67 ended when, one ball after pulling a four for his 50, the opener edged a loose drive to slip to give Wood his fifth wicket of the match.
But Younus became the first Pakistani to 9,000 Test runs when he reached 47, and piled on an unbroken 139 with Misbah - who was threatening his second hundred of the match by the close.
The Pakistan captain is expert and ruthless at taking toll of a tiring attack - and duly passed his 50 with the second of two sixes in an over from Adil Rashid, part of his match tally of nine maximums.
England had resumed their first innings with hopes high, the prolific Joe Root unbeaten and another century perhaps in his sights.
But in an eventful first hour, described the previous evening by Broad as potentially the biggest of the match, they were soon in trouble as Wahab took three for seven in his first eight overs.
The wicket of Root (88) was always likely to be key - and so it proved as England hit the skids once he was gone, pushing out to drive a wider one and edging Wahab behind.
Bairstow’s torrid time against Yasir included one edge past slip, and another dropped by the wicketkeeper.
He survived again somehow when third umpire Chris Gaffaney ruled Younus had not got his fingers under a low slip catch - but at the other end, quickly lost two more partners caught-behind again off Wahab.
Ben Stokes edged carelessly on the back foot, and then the out-of-form Buttler went for a duck trying to drive when the left-armer changed his angle to round the wicket.
Rashid outdid Stokes, with the worst shot of the session, aiming Yasir against the tide - and four balls later the leg-spinner had his third wicket when Bairstow was lbw pushing half-forward.
Wood’s dismissal to Yasir was a curiosity, caught at slip after both an on-field referral to the third umpire and then a batsman’s review too.
The eventual conclusion was that he had edged a ball which did not bounce on its way to the fielder, the ninth-wicket ‘stand’ therefore ended on 10 - the highest of a hapless and costly morning, once Bairstow and Root were parted.