Sri Lanka, replying to England's first innings total of 351, collapsed to 25-2 by tea on the second day of the second Test here on Monday.
England's batting heroes, wicket-keeper Matthew Prior and Ryan Sidebottom, combined once again in the field to remove opener Upul Tharanga (10) and the in-form Kumar Sangakkara (one).
Both batsmen hung their bats out against left-armer Sidebottom and edged easy catches to Prior as England stayed on course for a series-levelling win after losing the first Test in Kandy.
Sangakkara's wicket was crucial after the left-hander's 152 at Kandy made him the first batsman in Test history to compile 150-plus scores in four consecutive matches.
Michael Vandort was unbeaten at tea on 10 while captain Mahela Jayawardene was on three.
Earlier, Test cricket's record-holder Muttiah Muralitharan grabbed his 62nd five-wicket haul to cut short England's first innings in the post-lunch session.
The off-spinner finished with 5-116 as England lost their last three wickets for five runs to be bowled out for 351 an hour after lunch at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Prior made a defiant 79 before he was last man out after helping his side recover from 272-7.
Prior, whose 63 in the first Test failed to prevent an England defeat, put on 74 for the eighth wicket with tailender Sidebottom (17).
England moved to 346-7 when Muralitharan broke through by having Sidebottom caught by Mahela Jayawardene in the slips.
The prolific spinner, who surpassed Australian Shane Warne's world record tally of 708 wickets in the first Test, then dismissed Steve Harmison and took a high return catch off Prior to terminate the innings.
The 35-year-old Muralitharan now has 14 wickets in three innings in the series.
England added 11 runs to their overnight score of 258-5 when left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas provided the first break in the seventh over of the day.
Paul Collingwood, 49 overnight, completed his seventh Test half-century before he was trapped leg-before by the spot-on Vaas for 52.
Test debutant Stuart Broad lasted only 12 minutes, making two before he fell leg-before to Lasith Malinga, giving the slinging-arm fast bowler his third wicket in the innings.
Australian umpire Daryl Harper, who on Sunday controversially ruled Kevin Pietersen out caught when TV replays showed the fielder may have scooped the ball off the ground, faced a similar situation again on Monday.
Sidebottom fended at a short ball from Dilhara Fernando and Mahela Jayawardene took the ball low at second slip.
Harper consulted his colleague Aleem Dar and then asked TV umpire Gamini Silva to rule if the catch had been taken cleanly.
Slow motion replays, however, found the ball had bounced off Sidebottom's shoulder -- and not the bat -- and Silva ruled the batsman not out.
England captain Michael Vaughan had urged umpires on Sunday to "use common sense" and take the help of replays if there was any doubt about a dismissal.