James Anderson and Joe Root's world-record 10th-wicket stand remarkably gave England a short-lived lead over India at Trent Bridge.
But after Root (154 not out) and number 11 Anderson, with a career-best 81, had put on 198 runs to take the hosts to 496 all out - and 39 runs in front - another highly unlikely assignment faced England to try to take wickets of their own on the most unresponsive of pitches.
By tea on day four of the first Investec Test, prospects were distant of anything other than a stalemate to start the five-match series as India nosed back in front on 57 for one.
The morning session, however, threw up an astounding two and a half hours of cricket as a succession of records unexpectedly tumbled to Anderson and Root.
Their combined efforts culminated in what had been for so long, not just when England stumbled to 202 to for seven on Friday, the unthinkable end product of a first-innings lead.
Before lunch, they had also replaced an all-time record which seemed sure to stand a significant test but in the end lasted only 366 days - Australia debutant Ashton Agar and Phil Hughes' 163 for the 10th wicket, at this very ground at the start of last summer's Ashes.
Anderson was unable to break that famous partnership, but went on nonetheless to have one of his finest hours with a 10-wicket match haul as England took an advantage they would not relinquish last summer.
A year on, he was hitting new heights - in the most improbable of circumstances.
Anderson's pre-existing personal bests with the bat were respectively 34 in Tests, an unbeaten 37 in first-class cricket and 49 not out for Burnley in the Lancashire League - as a young opener 13 years ago.
A stream of boundaries, 11 on the way to his maiden half-century in any senior cricket, made a mockery of that batting CV.
He had ended his last innings for England with tears in his eyes, after being bounced out by the penultimate ball of the match to end a brave rearguard as he registered a pair at Headingley and the hosts suffered a shock series loss against Sri Lanka last month.
Here, he played barely a false shot and was only very rarely discomforted by the short ball on one of the slowest pitches ever prepared for international cricket in England.
India created and missed just one obvious opportunity to limit the damage when, with the stand on 'only' 105 and Anderson 45, Murali Vijay failed to hold a routine low catch at gully off Mohammed Shami.
By then Root, who had 50 to his name when Anderson joined him the previous evening and resumed on 78, had passed his hundred with successive off-side fours off Shami.
He went on to his third score of 150 or more, in his 17th Test, before Anderson edged a drive at Bhuvneshwar Kumar (five for 82) to be well caught by a diving Shikhar Dhawan at slip and leave Root unbeaten after six and three quarter hours and 295 balls at the crease.
It took India less than five overs after a delayed lunch interval to take the 10th wicket at last - just as well because the frustration appeared to be getting to Ishant Sharma, after he wrongly thought he had Root caught behind and entered an altercation when the batsman pointed out he was going nowhere just yet.
It was a comparative anti-climax for Anderson and Root to then fall short of their double-century stand, but another reality check was in store when India batted again.
Anderson might have made a near-immediate breakthrough, had Matt Prior put his gloves in the right place to collect a Vijay edge.
England got a break anyway, however, when Vijay's opening partner Shikhar Dhawan poked a Moeen Ali full toss back for a gimme wicket.