Zak Crawley stepped up with the highest score of his short Test career as England established a hard-fought lead but a late surge from the West Indies bowlers left the tourists sensing a day five victory at the Ageas Bowl.
After losing just three wickets in the first two sessions England blinked late in the day, seeing their next five go down for just 30 runs as they closed 170 ahead on 284 for eight.
The hosts had threatened to take real control for the first time in the match when Crawley joined captain Ben Stokes in a stand of 98 for the fourth wicket, but when Stokes fell for 46 and Crawley followed for 76 moments later the tone dramatically shifted.
None of what followed should take away from Crawley’s efforts, the 22-year-old showing maturity beyond both his years and his five international caps to produce the highest score of the match amid high tension.
It may prove to be the moment he leapfrogged Kent team-mate Joe Denly in the selectors’ eyes but there is plenty to do in this match before focus shifts to Joe Root’s return at Emirates Old Trafford next week.
Openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley laid a firm foundation, soaking up 10 taxing overs on the third evening and then continuing their good work in the morning session.
Resuming on 15 without loss they settled early to their task, quickly getting on top of the West Indies attack who laboured without joy for an hour. There was a slight hint of deterioration in the pitch – Holder persuading one to keep low to Burns and seeing another draw blood when it leapt into Sibley’s elbow.
Things tightened considerably after the drinks break and, after just 11 runs in 13 overs, Burns’ patience snapped as he slashed a short ball from Roston Chase straight into John Campbell’s hands at backward point. He hung his head before departing, his hard-won score of 42 thrown away.
Sibley pressed on with Denly at his side, eventually reaching 50 from 161 deliveries. He prodded at his 162nd and saw an inside edge splay his stumps, only for third umpire Michael Gough to hush Gabriel’s celebrations by calling a very tight no-ball.
The Trinidadian was visibly aghast but he returned to his mark and finished the job two balls later, Sibley caught down the leg side in an increasingly familiar fashion.
Denly was out next, for his Test average of 29, when he tamely lobbed Chase to the waiting Holder at short midwicket. By that point Crawley was already looking a more fluent source of runs, scoring more briskly than his county colleague.
He accelerated his scoring either side of tea and reached his half-century in 80 balls with his fourth boundary off Chase, a neat reverse sweep.
With Stokes looking confident and driving crisply at the other end the lead had swelled to 97 when the second new ball arrived. Gabriel was loose with it initially, conceding 13 in an over as Crawley moved past his previous top score of 66 and Stokes took back-to-back fours.
The fourth-wicket pair soon had the best stand of the match – topping 81 between Chase and Shane Dowrich – and were two short of the century when Stokes fell.
For the second time in a row he was beaten by his opposite number, stepping across his stumps to Holder and edging to the first of two gully fielders. His timing had been good but his footwork perhaps too busy for its own good.
There was time yet for Crawley to define the day but he joined his captain in the very next over, aiming Joseph towards the on-side but feeding a leading edge straight back to the seamer.
The picture had changed rapidly, with England’s 139-run lead suddenly looking far thinner than it had just minutes before.
Jos Buttler was wholly unable to improve things, reversing an lbw on five only to be cleaned up by Joseph for nine. The final word went to Gabriel, who went hard at the stumps in his last burst, castling Dom Bess and Ollie Pope to finish with three for 62 and place his team in the ascendance.