India, when the gathering gloom forced an early tea on the fifth and final day here Monday, were 282 for nine - still needing a further 98 to reach an imposing victory target of 380.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 76 not out and last man Shanthakumaran Sreesanth four not out.
Soon after the umpires brought the players off the field, the square was fully covered and hopes of any more play were in the balance.
India, chasing what would be the fourth highest fourth innings winning total in Test history were they to achieve it, started the second session on 207 for five, with VVS Laxman 29 not out and Dhoni, who'd survived a couple of scares, 28 not out.
The pair, India's last recognised batsmen, had come together following the loss of two quick wickets that left the tourists struggling at 145 for five.
But a stand worth 86 was ended when debutant quick Chris Tremlett bowled Laxman for 39 as he stayed on the backfoot to a full-length delivery.
England, who had reduced India to 231 for six, now found themselves as much in a race against the deteoriating weather, with the light fading and rain falling elsewhere in London, as the remainder of India's batsmen.
They took the new ball as soon as it became available after 80 overs, with India 241 for six.
And three overs later left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom dismissed Anil Kumble for three with the 14th lbw of the match.
Dhoni completed a 120-ball fifty, his fifth in Tests, but at the other end Tremlett had Zaheer Khan gloving down the legside to wicket-keeper Matt Prior for nought and India were two wickets away from defeat at 254 for eight.
England captain Michael Vaughan brought himself on to bowl off-spin in a bid to prevent the umpires offering the light.
But it was Panesar, the son of Indian parents but born in Luton, north of London, who struck next by clean bowling a perplexed Rudra Pratap Singh.
However, the light worsened and the match was halted with England on the brink of victory.
India started the final day on 137 for three. Opener Dinesh Karthik was 56 not out and Sourav Ganguly, dropped on 12, unbeaten on 36.
An overcast sky made conditions helpful for swing bowling and, in the fourth over of the day, Sidebottom had left-hander Ganguly lbw for 40.
James Anderson, recalled for his first home Test since 2004, had taken a Test-nest five for 42 as India were bowled out for 201 in their first innings despite England missing injured pace bowlers Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff.
Anderson was again rewarded for his accuracy when Karthik, who'd otherwise cover-driven well during his 60, edged to second slip Paul Collingwood.