Pragyan Ojha struck twice in the second session to help India take the upper-hand after England batted resolutely in reply to India's first innings total of 327 on the second afternoon of the second Test on Saturday.
Captain Alastair Cook and his opening partner Nick Compton negotiated the spinning ball calmly to raise the visitors' hopes till left-arm spinner Ojha dealt two quick blows to galvanise them.
Ojha had Compton caught at slip for 29 and then trapped Jonathan Trott (0) leg before as England slumped from 66 for no loss to 68 for 2 within no time.
At the break, England were 77 for 2 in 36 overs, with the left-handed Cook, batting on 43 after a stay of 132 minutes, and new batsman Kevin Pietersen (5) at the crease.
The tourists were 250 runs behind the home team's score at the interval after Cook and Compton put on 66 runs for the first wicket before the latter edged a sharply spinning ball to slip fielder Virender Sehwag after a stay of 112 minutes.
Earlier in the morning, England finally dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara in the series, for the first time in three innings, after he made a superb 135 before India were all out 22 minutes before lunch.
Pujara was ninth out at 316, after batting for almost the entire day on Friday and with just half an hour left for lunch, after he pulled India out of a deep hole, when he was lured out by Swann and stumped by Matt Prior.
Pujara's seven and a half hour vigil lasted 350 ball and he struck 12 fours.
India lost their remaining four wickets after adding 61 runs this morning with off-spinner Graeme Swann sending back Pujara, Harbhajan Singh (21) and Zaheer Khan (11) in the space of 10 balls spread over three overs.
The last four Indian wickets added 158 runs and helped them bounce back from 169 for 6 on Friday.
Swann picked up four wickets while Panesar, who dismissed overnight not out batsman Ashwin in the morning, finished with a fifer, his first such haul against India and 11th overall.
Responding to the total, Cook and Compton batted cautiously after resuming at the team's lunchtime score of 7 for no loss, in reply to the home team's 327.
Compton edged Zaheer Khan, brought on from one end straightaway after lunch to bowl his first over of the game, for a four.
The in-form Cook, meanwhile, began using his feet well to Ojha and lofted him over the fielders for two fours and a six over long on to ease some pressure.
Initially neither Ojha nor off spinner Ashwin looked unplayable or got the same amount of turn or bounce that the Panesar and Swann secured in the morning.
Both were also guilty of not sticking to a consistent line with Ashwin slightly better than his spin partner till Ojha came on for a fresh spell in his place before tea.
Though Harbhajan Singh is in the eleven, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not summon him into the attack till the 25th over and the score had crossed the 50 mark with both openers well-settled after 80 minutes of batting together.
The senior off-spinner was able to extract some sharp turn and a little bit of bounce more than the other two in his short spell before tea.
Ashwin had tried to disturb Compton's composure by coming round the wicket to the right-hander and beat him on a couple of occasions with some turn.
Half an hour to tea, India's top batsman of the series, Pujara, had to leave the field for medical attention after being hit on his right rib-cage by a full-blooded sweep by Cook off Ashwin. Soon after Cook swept Ashwin pretty close to Ajinkya Rahane, substituting for Pujara.
The first hour produced 47 runs from 17 overs while 28 more were added in 15 overs in the second hour to tea.