Only Mahendra Singh Dhoni stopped England's seam attack putting an irrevocable stamp already on the fifth Investec Test at The Oval.
Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes, identified by some as the hosts' weak links behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad in England's surge to three-day victory at Old Trafford last week, both cashed in career Test bests as India approached terminal collapse on day one.
But Dhoni (82), as in Manchester, brought partial rescue as the tourists' first innings - having faltered to an alarming 90 for nine - eventually mustered 148 all out.
Even after England replied with 62 for none at stumps, and therefore have obvious prospects of a match-controlling lead, it was still as yet impossible to be dogmatic about the wider significance of Dhoni's admirable efforts to defy ideal seam-bowling conditions.
At any rate, his fourth half-century of the summer - and eventual contribution of more than half his team's total - limited damage above the embarrassment which persisted for India in the north-west, where they also folded tamely in their second innings.
As last week, when they lost five wickets by lunch having opted to bat, they found immediate trouble once more - this time after Alastair Cook chose to bowl.
Conspicuous movement off the pitch and in the air vindicated his decision, and India succumbed almost to a man against pace under cloud cover.
England's prospects of closing out a much-needed series victory, from 2-1 up, were therefore substantially ehanced despite Dhoni's determination and expert shepherding of his last-wicket stand with Ishant Sharma.
Manchester service was resumed by the home seamers, the only difference that it was Jordan (three for 32) and Woakes (three for 30) who proved themselves after Anderson and Broad's early strikes.
Anderson needed only four deliveries, and Gautam Gambhir's first, to instantly advance one nearer to Ian Botham's England all-time Test wicket-taking record.
Gambhir, recalled to little effect at Old Trafford, managed only the minimum stay - caught-behind off the face of the bat as he tried to leave a ball that bounced and seamed alarmingly.
The prodigious new-ball movement continued and it was Broad who profited next when he snaked a perfect ball back through Cheteshwar Pujara's defence to hit the top of off-stump via the number three's front pad.
India tried to dig in. But Virat Kohli's hugely disappointing tour continued when umpire Kumar Dharmasena judged that Jordan had found enough angle into him to win an lbw verdict with no shot played.
When Jordan held a return chance from Ajinkya Rahane, India's chances of posting a competitive total were fading fast.
Opener Murali Vijay had stood firm but could not extend his vigil beyond Woakes' second over - Joe Root posted close at gully, wearing a helmet, and holding on to a juggling catch as bounce compromised back-foot defence.
After lunch, Anderson made short work of Stuart Binny with a routine edge to Cook at slip.
With Broad off colour in his second spell, the hint of a fightback from Dhoni and Ravi Ashwin was short-lived as the number eight fell to another low gully catch by Root off Woakes.
England had caught very well to that point, and Jos Buttler was safe again as Bhuvneshwar Kumar chased a wide one to give Jordan a wicket in the first over of a spell for the second time.
Varun Aaron tried to stick around only to eventually loop a return catch back to Woakes.
England then had their chances to bowl India out in double-figures, only for Broad to miss the stumps when a direct hit from midwicket would have run Ishant out for nought and an Ian Bell catch away to his right at second slip would have seen the tailender off for a single.
Instead, Ishant survived to play an effective foil as Dhoni delayed tea in an innings which contained 15 fours and a six through and over attacking fields to give Cook his share of frustration until the India captain was last out when he pulled Broad to deep backward-square.
By the close, after his and Sam Robson's highest opening stand to date, Cook had good reason to smile again - especially after a moment of fortune on nine when Hawkeye indicated Kumar's appeal for lbw, turned down by Paul Reiffel, had plenty of merit.