Stuart Broad and James Anderson hustled Pakistan out for 99, yet England could take only a minor advantage on a hectic first day of the final Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Anderson (three for 35) struck in the first over, and there was no let-up from him and Broad (four for 36) after Misbah-ul-Haq had chosen to bat first.
But Pakistan, bowled out in mid-afternoon, hit back to have the tourists 104 for six at stumps - despite Andrew Strauss' dogged defiance in a 120-ball 41 not out.
Only number six Asad Shafiq had managed significant resistance as England, in danger of a 3-0 whitewash after back-to-back defeats, unleashed Broad and Anderson to devastating effect with the new ball.
There was nonetheless an inevitable hollow note for the world number ones, who waved goodbye to this series with their own hapless collapse to 72 all out in Abu Dhabi last week. Anderson began here with the wicket of Taufeeq Umar, for a duck, in the first over with a delivery which straightened off the seam for lbw.
Broad had to wait until his third over when more movement took a faint inside edge to account for Azhar Ali after a fine catch by Matt Prior and a DRS review which overturned Simon Taufel's initial not-out verdict.
Younus Khan then fenced at some extra bounce from Broad and also went caught-behind thanks to Prior, in the wicketkeeper's 50th Test.
England could do precious little wrong, and called another successful DRS to have Mohammad Hafeez lbw to Broad even though the batsman appeared to think he had got bat on ball.
When Misbah himself went lbw at the other end - DRS proved no help to Pakistan against Anderson's full-length swing - Pakistan's scorecard already bore a remarkable resemblance to the ones England contrived in the first two Tests.
There were to be two more wickets before lunch for good measure.
Adnan Akmal would have been run out after a push to cover for an unwise single, had Eoin Morgan managed a direct hit. But the same batsman was soon deceived by Broad, in his second spell, lbw pushing forward.
Graeme Swann broke the run of wickets falling to pace when Abdur Rehman had a swing at the off-spinner and managed only to hoist a gentle skier to Kevin Pietersen at mid-off.
Shafiq kept England at bay for 78 balls, and contributed almost half his team's runs. But he was the second of two more lbw departures, trying to cut a Monty Panesar arm ball, before Pakistan fell just short of three figures.
Immediate impressions were that England had bowled well and Pakistan batted especially poorly on a perfectly feasible pitch of decent pace, with just occasional seam movement.
But that premise looked ropy as the reply stumbled to seven for two before tea.
Alastair Cook chased a wide ball, to be well-caught behind off Umar Gul by a diving Akmal, and then Jonathan Trott fell to the same bowler - lbw to a full-length delivery, and ignoring a DRS option only for Hawkeye to suggest the ball would have gone on to miss leg-stump.
Strauss and Pietersen convinced as England batsmen so rarely have, over the past two weeks, in a third-wicket stand of 57 in which the latter appeared in notably good form.
But Pietersen was to become the eighth lbw victim of the day, and world-record 34th for any three-match series.
He was perhaps unfortunate too to see Taufel's decision confirmed by DRS, even though technology indicated the delivery from Rehman (three for 23) - Pietersen's slow left-arm jinx again - would have barely shaved leg-stump.
There was to be an element of bad luck about England's next dismissal too - Ian Bell undone by a Saeed Ajmal doosra, over-balancing only momentarily yet just long enough for the ball to ricochet straight back off the wicketkeeper's gloves just before his foot had slid back behind the crease.
There was still time too before the close of an uncanny day for Morgan to go lbw and Prior bowled to Rehman's orthodox spin.
Meanwhile, England hope Tim Bresnan may be able to fly back to the United Arab Emirates soon, in time for the limited-overs leg of this tour, having had to return home before the first Test because of post-operative elbow pain.
But the seamer's travel plans and availability for one-day international and Twenty20 squads, due to be named after this Test, are still dependent on ongoing fitness checks in Yorkshire.