At lunch on the second day, India were 429 for six with Tendulkar, whose 37 Test hundreds are a world record, out for 82.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was 33 not out and Anil Kumble five not out.
India, 1-0 up, had merely to avoid defeat in this match to win only their third series in England in 15 campaigns dating back to 1932.
England, by contrast, had to win to maintain their six-year unbeaten run in home Test series.
No India batsman has so far made a century this series but Tendulkar, in what could be his last Test in England, was nearing three figures when he couldn't get over the top of a good-length James Anderson delivery and guided the ball to first slip Andrew Strauss.
Tendulkar, in for nearly five hours, faced 192 balls with 11 fours after making 91 in India's seven-wicket second Test win at Trent Bridge. He shared a brisk stand of 63 in 71 balls with Dhoni.
Fast bowler Anderson, at lunch, had figures of three for 130 in 30 overs.
India resumed on 316 for four with Tendulkar, dropped on 20 by wicket-keeper Matt Prior, 48 not out and VVS Laxman 20 not out following an impressive 91 from opener Dinesh Karthik.
However, on 41, it was Laxman's turn to be given a reprieve by Prior and once more left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom was the unlucky bowler.
Sidebottom, in the seventh over of the day, drew Laxman into pushing outside off-stump.
But a diving Prior, when the ball was going straight to Strauss, got a corner of his right glove to it but couldn't hold on. India were then 343 for four.
Laxman's pulled boundary off fast bowler Chris Tremlett saw him to a 65-ball fifty.
But Tremlett ensured Laxman didn't make the most of his earlier let-off when the batsman, on 51, was drawn forward by a delivery which bounced off a good length and Prior, who has conceded 29 byes this innings, held a simple catch.
India were now 354 for five after Tendulkar and Laxman's stand of 78.
New batsman Dhoni upped the tempo and greeted Monty Panesar's introduction by driving the left-arm spinner's first ball Friday for four on a sunny day where conditions, with little pace in the pitch, remained ideal for batting.