Galle: Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene was one run away from becoming his country's leading centurion as England paid dearly for missed chances in the third Test here.
Jayawardene was unbeaten on 99 as Sri Lanka took their overnight total of 147-4 to 287-6 by tea on the second day at the Galle International Stadium.
Tillekeratne Dilshan made 84 in a fifth-wicket stand of 149 with Jayawardene, before England hit back with two unexpected scalps in the last over before tea.
Jayawardene patted a ball from Ravi Bopara and ran for a single that would have given him his 21st century, but Dilshan was unable to complete the run as Alastair Cook ran in from slip and broke the stumps.
Three balls later, Bopara dismissed wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene for no score, caught behind by Matt Prior, as Sri Lanka slipped from a comfortable 287-4.
The late strikes made up for a bungling effort in the field by England, who dropped three catches and had one turned down by Australian umpire Daryl Harper.
Jayawardene, who took over from Sanath Jayasuriya as Sri Lanka's leading run-getter during his 195 in the drawn second Test, needs one more run to surpass Aravinda de Silva's record of 20 centuries.
Dilshan marked his comeback after being ignored for the recent Australian tour with 11 boundaries in a stroke-filled knock.
As the pair settled down, England were left to rue the missed chances off both batsmen in a match the tourists must win to draw the series.
Dilshan had not added to his overnight score of seven when Cook at gully failed to hold a slash against left-armer Ryan Sidebottom.
Wicket-keeper Prior, who has had an excellent tour so far, then floored catches off both Jayawardene and Dilshan to let Sri Lanka off the hook.
Dilshan moved to 65 when he gloved Matthew Hoggard down the leg-side, but umpire Harper disallowed Prior's loud appeal.
Television replays showed Dilshan was lucky to survive the scare.
Play began 90 minutes late due to a wet outfield caused by heavy rain on Tuesday evening, further curtailing a match in which just 55 of the stipulated 90 overs were bowled on the first day.
Jayawardene and Dilshan were in no rush for runs, making 64 from 20 overs in the morning session.
Brief Scores (at tea, D-2):
Sri Lanka 287/6 ( Jayawardene 99*, Dilshan 84, Sangakkara 46; Harmison 3 for 60, Sidebottom 1 for 62, Bopara 1 for 17) Vs England