England spinner Jack Leach felt he "came up a little short" as Sri Lanka launched a second innings resistance in Galle, but the tourists remain in a strong position to push for victory in the first Test.
At lunch on day three the deck was stacked firmly in England's favour, with Joe Root's outstanding knock of 228 leaving the home side 286 adrift at the start of the second innings.
They had folded meekly to 135 all out on day one but turned in a much improved display to reach the close on 156 for two and show a willingness to make a fight of things.
England will perhaps reflect that they could, and should, have done more to take the likes of Kusal Perera (62) and Lahiru Thirimanne (76no) out of their comfort zone, not least their pair of frontline spinners.
Neither Leach nor fellow spinner Dom Bess built enough pressure on a surface offering slow but considerable turn, with modest combined figures of one for 97 in 33 overs.
The wicket belonged to Leach, who located Kusal Mendis' outside edge with his penultimate ball of the day, but there is room for improvement and a comfortable buffer of runs still to play with.
"It was tough work for us, definitely. The openers did really well and we found it tough," the left-armer told Sky Sports.
"I probably came up a little short. I've been short of match overs for a little bit of time, I guess. You can do as much as you want in the nets but you need that stuff in games.
"I found I probably bowled a little bit short when I tried to bowl quicker, that's something to think about for tomorrow.
"I'll be reflecting overnight and we'll go again in the morning. We're still leading by 130 so there's a lot to play for in the morning and with the new ball around the corner, we're hopeful we can pick up some early wickets.
"The new ball can be a bit more inconsistent – one will spin, one will go straight on. There's definitely something for us to look forward to."
All-rounder Sam Curran, who ended a century opening stand with a long hop that Perera slashed to third man and also had Thirimanne dropped, accepted England were expecting to toil after an unexpectedly simple first innings in the field.
"I think the way things happened for us on day one of the Test match is probably not going to happen very often, we spoke about," he said.
"You don't take those days for granted. Sri Lanka have fought really hard in the second innings, which we expected, but we stuck in there as a bowling group. We knew they were going to keep fighting hard and we'll keep fighting as well so tomorrow will be another good day of Test cricket."
As for Root, he will hope most of his remaining work in the match will be done making decisions rather than runs.
But if he does need to help out in a fourth-innings chase, he can hardly have had a better grounding than a fourth double century in Tests over almost eight hours at the crease.
"I'm stiff and sore but it's a great kind of stiff and sore," he said.
"I set myself high standards and I do expect quite a lot from myself, so it was nice. But it won't mean half as much if we don't get a result out of this game.
"It always means more when you're on the winning side and hopefully we can press on and hammer home this advantage."