Chris Tremlett's Test best helped to reduce Sri Lanka to 177 for nine - but England may still run out of time for a victory push after two drastically rain-shortened days at the Rose Bowl.
Tremlett marked his return to his native county and what was once his home ground with figures of six for 42, on the occasion of the inaugural Test match at this venue.
Making the most of his opportunity in favourable overhead conditions and on a lively pitch too, Tremlett profited from extra bounce and occasional fuller-length swing as England took nine wickets in the 61.2 overs played so far.
Despite rain which wiped out the morning session on day two of this third npower Test and then returned to preclude any play either after an early tea, Tremlett ensured England consolidated the advantage established yesterday.
Their only significant stumbling block proved to be Prasanna Jayawardene - who turned his overnight 10 into 43, from 104 balls in all.
Tremlett struck in each of his first two overs this afternoon, with the final delivery both times.
Thilan Samaraweera had just been struck a painful blow on the right hand, and then brought up his 50 stand with Jayawardene by clipping two runs past midwicket, only to be outdone by Tremlett's bounce when an attempted push-drive flew to Kevin Pietersen at gully.
Compulsive counter-attacker Thisara Perera managed to register only two runs, mishooked just short of long-leg off Tremlett, before he edged a wild swish at the same bowler and was well-caught behind by Matt Prior.
Andrew Strauss took James Anderson out of the attack, and brought on Stuart Broad.
But it was up at the pavilion end that it was all still happening, and Tremlett completed his second five-wicket haul in Tests when Rangana Herath's attempts to hit Sri Lanka out of trouble ended with a hook into the hands of fine-leg.
Jayawardene, who had spent much of day one in stout defence alongside Samaraweera, decided it was time to play more shots.
The wicketkeeper has out-batted many of his more illustrious colleagues throughout the tour so far, and it was he who had hastened the end of Anderson's spell with a well-timed boundary off his legs and a cover-drive on the up for three more.
He was to find a handy ally too in Dilhara Fernando, who frustrated England's pace attack with a growing collection of edges which were either guided through or simply evaded slips and gully.
For good measure, the hosts used up their second review when DRS failed to conclusively overrule Rod Tucker's not-out lbw verdict after Anderson thought he had Jayawardene.
The Sri Lanka mainstay did not add to his score, though, before he swept only the second ball bowled by Graeme Swann into the hands of deep midwicket.
It was time for Fernando to try to muscle some bonus runs with the last pair, and he managed to club eight off the remainder of Swann's first over.
Tremlett returned to make short work of Suranga Lakmal, caught behind off a short one for a first-ball duck.
But the forecast rain returned with a vengeance before England's new strike bowler could land the last blow - potentially leaving them short of time to wrap up this series 2-0.