India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni stood alone as the tourists suffered yet another batting collapse to hand England the advantage on the first day of the fifth and final Test at The Oval on Friday.
England were 62 without loss in reply to India's meagre 148 all out, a deficit of 86 runs.
England captain Alastair Cook was 24 not out and Australia-born Sam Robson, driving well after a run of low scores, 33 not out as the hosts looked to extend their 2-1 series lead.
Earlier, Dhoni made 82 in an innings where only Murali Vijay (18) and Ravichandran Ashwin (13) also got into double figures.
Seam-bowling all-rounders Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan took three wickets apiece after James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who had two each, quickly justified Cook's decision to field first in overcast conditions on a green-tinged pitch.
Anderson, who started this match seven wickets shy of Ian Botham's England record of 383 Test wickets, had opener Gautam Gambhir, trying to withdraw his bat, caught behind for a golden duck off the fourth ball of the match.
Broad, passed fit despite suffering a broken nose while batting in Manchester, then dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara (four) when the ball deflected onto his stumps via pad and arm.
Virat Kohli's miserable series continued when, playing no stroke, he was leg-before to Chris Jordan for six. Jordan then caught and bowled Ajinkya Rahane for the first duck of his Test career. Vijay survived for more than 90 minutes but he fell when edging Woakes to Joe Root at fourth slip. India were now 36 for five inside 19 overs and went to lunch at 43 for five, with Dhoni six not out.
That soon became 44 for six when recalled all-rounder Stuart Binny edged a full length Anderson delivery that swung late to Cook at first slip. Wickets continued to fall as the floodlights pierced the gloom and India should have been out for 95, but Ian Bell dropped last man Ishant Sharma in the slips.
Dhoni's defiant knock -- which featured 66 runs in boundaries (15 fours and a six) -- ended when the number six pulled Broad straight to Woakes at long leg.
England got through to the close with few alarms although Cook had a fortunate escape, on nine, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar appealed for leg-before against the left-hander.
However, Paul Reiffel ruled not out. Replays showed the ball had pitched in line and would have hit the stumps.