Even West Indies' limpet left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul had bleak prospects of blocking England's victory course in the first Investec Test.
The world-beating hosts were unable to shift Chanderpaul for the second innings running, yet by stumps on day three at Lord's they had their opponents 120 for four, still 35 behind and up against it to avoid going 1-0 down with two to play.
Ian Bell (61), back to form after his unaccustomed run of low scores during England's tough Asian winter, kept them in control after captain Andrew Strauss could add only a single to his overnight 121.
West Indies limited England to 398 all out, but Bell played the long game in a 105-ball stay, to shepherd the tail - among whom Graeme Swann top-scored with 30 from only 25 balls.
West Indies therefore faced an hour of afternoon batting, a passage of play which would encapsulate the frustrations of their supporters and well-wishers over the past decade or more.
After a promising opening stand, they haplessly lost three wickets for no run just before tea.
Adrian Barath edged behind when first-change Tim Bresnan got one to leave him off the pitch up the slope, and Kieren Powell ran out of patience after mustering one run from his last 25 balls and mis-pulled Stuart Broad high to square-leg.
That was bad enough, but the Windies also lost number three Kirk Edwards for a duck when he was run-out by a direct hit from cover by Jonny Bairstow following a mis-communication with Darren Bravo over an aborted single.
Bravo and Chanderpaul did not have a run between them, and then took risk management to extremes after tea in an hour of near strokelessness.
The culmination was not a release of pressure from England but success for Swann, who deceived Bravo with a ball which did not turn and clattered into off-stump, with the left-hander waving it through for the only dismissal of the final session.
Chanderpaul had survived on two when James Anderson failed to cling on to barely a half-chance, diving to his left at third slip, off Bresnan.
He proceeded to play with a dourness few could even approach, following his first-innings 87 not out with an unbeaten 34 at stumps in which he needed 46 balls to warm up to his first boundary, keeping out 95 in all to date, as Marlon Samuels caught the bug too in an obdurate and unbroken half-century stand.
With Strauss gone first thing, England had appeared intent on swift progress rather than mere consolidation on this slow pitch.
Strauss last night completed his first Test century in 18 months but, as so often previously when he has started a new day with a hundred already under his belt, he was unable to make worthwhile addition.
The captain lasted less than four overs, getting a thin inside-edge behind off Kemar Roach (three for 87) as the tourists redoubled their efforts with the second new ball.
The contact went undetected until West Indies reviewed the decision, and Hotspot evidence ended Strauss' six-and-a-half-hour innings.
Debutant Bairstow quickly looked the part at the highest level, his career under way with a stuttering single to cover but soon containing two high-class boundaries clipped off his legs from each of the new-ball bowlers.
When he missed a delivery which came in on the angle from Roach, though, Bairstow sensibly saw no reason to review Marais Erasmus' lbw verdict.
Matt Prior was the next foil to Bell's studied accumulation and operated at a run-a-ball until he became debutant Shannon Gabriel's first Test wicket, loosely aiming to leg and bowled middle-stump.
When Bresnan then hung a defensive bat out at Darren Sammy to be caught-behind for a duck, England appeared to be frittering away their dominance.
Broad had his off-bail clipped by Fidel Edwards, the first ball he faced after lunch, making Swann's six fours all the more important in a ninth-wicket stand of 55 in under eight overs.
Gabriel (three for 60) bowled him, much as he had Prior earlier, and then had Bell last out, pulling to deep square-leg and well-held by Powell.
But if West Indies thought they might have a foothold in this match, the illusion soon evaporated.