The tourists needed to prove to themselves and their supporters that their first innings was not badly under par in Mohali.
But there appeared to be a tension about their work with the new ball and curiously none of the swing Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav had found for the hosts, as third-change Ben Stokes brought them their only success when Murali Vijay went caught-behind in a total of 60 for one.
A bizarre early appeal for obstructing the field against Murali, who barely moved an inch when James Anderson threw the ball back towards the stumps with the opener just out of his ground but obviously able to regain it if necessary, was never going to succeed but did betray a perceived deterioration of relations between these two teams.
Stokes’ reprimand for his spat with Virat Kohli after being dismissed the previous afternoon cannot have helped.
If England felt any injustice over that, their mood did not lift either after stand-in opener Parthiv Patel rightly overturned a caught-behind decision against him when DRS demonstrated the ball from Chris Woakes hit only the left-hander’s tummy.
A moment of inspiration almost came England’s way when Jos Buttler dived to his right for what would have been a brilliant one-handed catch off Moeen Ali at midwicket.
Murali survived on 11 but had added only that single when Stokes struck in his first over - with a short and wide ball which the batsman chased, edged behind and gave himself out even as umpire Chris Gaffaney was deciding otherwise.
England had earlier resumed on 268-8 and added 15 more in under four overs - thanks largely to Anderson, who came out swinging after his king pair in last week’s defeat at Vizag.
Adil Rashid fell to his first ball of the day, caught-behind from a good one that left him off the pitch, and Shami (three for 63) doubled up by having Gareth Batty lbw on the back foot to close a patchy innings in which England had lost their last four wickets for 25 runs.
Meanwhile, England opener Haseeb Hameed was off the field after being hit on the left little finger while batting on day one, for the second time in the series. He is expected to have an X-ray at the end of this Test.
India have released both uncapped all-rounder Hardik Pandya and opener KL Rahul from their squad, with respective shoulder and arm injuries. Rahul should be fit again in time for the fourth Test in Mumbai.