With more than a session to go, the shoulders of Indian fielders had already started to dip. Precious little had gone the hosts' way as bowlers struggled to get enough purchase from the third-day pitch and Sri Lanka piled on the agony with some sensible batting.
Knowing the importance of putting a big score on the board the visitors cut out risk and milked the Indian bowling for ones and twos. Mahela Jayawardene led the charge with his sixth double-century and Thilan Samaraweera and Prasanna Jayawardene chipped in with half centuries to help the Sri Lankans take a 165-run lead with five wickets in hand.
At stumps, Sri Lanka were 591 for 5 with Mahela batting on 204 and Prasanna giving him company on 84. The world No. 2 team will now fancy their chances of winning their first ever Test against higher-ranked India.
No joy in opening hour
But the three overs short that they bowled on Tuesday night came back to haunt India as they had to wait 35 minutes for the second new ball. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni began with spinners from both ends quickly finish 10 overs but by the time the second new ball was taken the pitch had hardly anything to offer.
Ishant Sharma did bend his back and managed to beat Samaraweera on a couple of occasions but such moments were few and far between. However, the Delhi bowler was finally rewarded for his effort when Samaraweera failed to keep a pull down and Yuvraj Singh plucked the ball from thin air at short leg.
And when Harbhajan Singh sent back Angelo Mathews at the stroke of lunch, the crowd expected the Indian bowlers to start asserting themselves.
Frustrating second session
But that turned out to be wishful thinking as the two Jayawardenes put frustrated the bowlers. The duo dealt mostly in ones and twos, adding 108 runs in the second session with just four hits to the fence.
Mahela reached his 27th century in the bargain and also helped Sri Lanka take the first innings lead, something they have done in India only once before. And if anyone thought the former Sri Lanka captain could throw away the good work they were proved wrong.
He went on to score his sixth double-hundred in 320 balls with a push to mid-off and took the team to a position from where they should give themselves a fantastic chance of winning their first ever Test on Indian soil. Dhoni rotated his bowlers in short spells and Amit Mishra even tried to bowl a leg-stump line but nothing flustered the batsman. Mahela used the late cut to great effect and nullified Harbhajan's offspin while Yuvraj also failed to make any difference.