At stumps on a weather-affected third day Sri Lanka were 194 for five in their second innings, a slender lead of 40, with Vandort 89 not out and Farveez Maharoof unbeaten on nought.
Left-hander Vandort and Tillakaratne Dilshan (59) put on 125 for the fifth wicket to dent England's hopes of going 1-0 up in the three match series.
But just when it seemed Sri Lanka would get through a day where the first two sessions were washed out completely without losing a wicket, Dilshan was lbw to Matthew Hoggard late on.
However, as they'd done in the drawn opener at Lord's where they batted for 14 hours to save the game after following-on, Sri Lanka were showing much more fight in their second innings than their first.
"Michael showed a lot of character, it was a big innings from him," Sri Lanka coach Tom Moody told reporters after stumps.
"But it is frustrating, it would be nice to be in front of the game after the first innings," the former Australia international added.
Moody, looking ahead to the prospect of Muttiah Muralitharan bowling on a wearing pitch, said Sri Lanka would not need that much of a lead to give the master off-spinner, who took six for 86 in England's first innings, a chance of leading the team to a dramatic victory.
"Chasing runs in Test cricket in the fourth innings, when a wicket is deteoriating slightly is a very tough task and particularly even tougher when you've got someone like Murali to face on a wicket showing obvious turn.
"We've still got a lot of hard work to do but if we knuckle down anything above 130 is going to be challenging and we'll feel very much in the game."
Meanwhile Moody's England counterpart Duncan Fletcher admitted it had been a difficult day for his team.
"It was pretty frustrating," Fletcher said. "But we just have to give credit to how Sri Lanka batted."
Asked what total he'd be happy for England to chase, he added: "Any score of around 200 in the second innings of a Test match is always challenging to get."
Sri Lanka resumed Saturday on 86 for four, 68 runs behind. Vandort was 30 not out and Dilshan 21 not out.
England though were a bowler light with paceman Liam Plunkett, who'd led the attack with three for 43 in Sri Lanka's meagre first innings 141, off the field with a right shoulder injury sustained while fielding on Friday.
Although Plunkett later returned to the field he was not fit enough to bowl.
Meanwhile, Vandort responded to the introduction of Monty Panesar by lofting the left-arm spinner's second ball Saturday for four.
The 26-year-old, in only his fifth Test, then completed his third Test fifty and first against England off 162 balls with five boundaries.
Dilshan reached his ninth Test fifty, and second in as many matches after his 69 at Lord's, in 87 balls with seven fours after a single off England captain Andrew Flintoff.
But Panesar's first ball back saw Dilshan, on 58, appear fortunate to see Australian umpire Darrell Hair turn down a confident lbw appeal.
England totalled 295 on Friday with Kevin Pietersen scoring 142 in just 157 balls, his second hundred of the series, after he'd equalled his Test-best 158 at Lord's.
His innings was particularly valuable as none of his team-mates managed more than Andrew Strauss's 30 as England built a first innings lead of 154.