DUBAI - Joe Root made a half-century as England rallied to 130 for three at the close of the fourth day of the second test on Sunday, 360 runs behind Pakistan after the hosts' Younus Khan had made a swaggering 31st test century.
Root, 59 not out, put on 102 runs with Ian Bell (46), the duo's second innings defiance giving the tourists hope of forcing an improbable draw.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq had declared in the early afternoon on 354 for six to set England a daunting victory target of 491.
Batting for a second time, England appeared as if they cared little for the scoreboard and were simply aiming to get through potentially more than 140 overs without losing 10 wickets.
Pakistan were similarly unconcerned by the run rate, positioning four slips as Misbah began with an all-seam attack of Wahab Riaz and Imran Khan.
Moeen Ali (1) lasted 15 balls in another miserable outing for the novice opener, his series average now just 12 after a thick edge carried to Younus at second slip off Imran Khan.
In came Bell to partner skipper Alastair Cook, who appeared to be struggling with an injury that left him labouring between the wickets.
Cook's (10) torment was soon over, his attempted sweep off Yasir Shah giving Wahab a catch at deep backward square as England stumbled to 19 for two.
Misbah switched from seam to spin and then back to pace, but Bell and Root defended adroitly.
Root brought up his 15th test half-century, and third of the series, with a four past third man.
Bell then tried to leave a Zulfiqar Babar delivery, but the ball hit his glove and carried to Younus. Jonny Bairstow is six not out.
Pakistan, who have never lost a series in the United Arab Emirates, their adopted home since 2009, began the morning on 222 for three.
They suffered an early setback, however, when Misbah (87) thumped James Anderson's slower delivery to Cook at mid-off for a comfortable catch.
Younus was unruffled and Pakistan's record run scorer registered his 10th hundred in the UAE with a cut for four as Pakistan reached lunch without further loss.
England were lethargic in the afternoon, their sluggish movement in the field allowing Pakistan to score freely.
That slowness lulled the hosts into complacency, however, as Younus (118) lofted a top edge from Adil Rashid beyond the bowler's head and Moeen made a sprawling catch.
Asad Shafiq (79) was then trapped leg before wicket by Moeen as Pakistan scored 43 runs in seven post-lunch overs.
The highest total England have ever chased down successfully in the fourth innings is 332, against Australia in 1928-29.
Pakistan 2nd innings (Overnight: 222-3)
M. Hafeez c Root b Wood 51
S. Masood c Buttler b Anderson 1
S. Malik b Wood 7
Y. Khan c Ali b Rashid 118
Misbah-ul-Haq c Cook b Anderson 87
A. Shafiq lbw b Ali 79
S. Ahmed not out 3
Extras (b-6 lb-1 nb-1) 8
Total (for 6 wickets declared, 95 overs) 354
Fall of wickets: 1-1 S. Masood,2-16 S. Malik,3-83 M. Hafeez,4-224 Misbah-ul-Haq,5-337 Y. Khan,6-354 A. Shafiq
Did not bat: W. Riaz, Y. Shah, Z. Babar, I. Khan
J. Anderson 15 - 7 - 22 - 2
S. Broad 10 - 1 - 34 - 0
M. Wood 14 - 3 - 44 - 2(nb-1)
M. Ali 11 - 0 - 60 - 1
B. Stokes 17 - 3 - 54 - 0
A. Rashid 25 - 1 - 107 - 1
J. Root 3 - 0 - 26 - 0
England 2nd innings (Target: 491 runs)
A. Cook c Riaz b Shah 10
M. Ali c Y. Khan b I. Khan 1
I. Bell c Y. Khan b Babar 46
J. Root not out 59
J. Bairstow not out 6
Extras (b-6 nb-2) 8
Total (for 3 wickets, 54 overs) 130
Fall of wickets: 1-9 M. Ali,2-19 A. Cook,3-121 I. Bell
To bat: B. Stokes, J. Buttler, A. Rashid, S. Broad, M. Wood, J. Anderson
I. Khan 6 - 2 - 16 - 1(nb-1)
W. Riaz 8 - 1 - 15 - 0(nb-1)
Y. Shah 16 - 5 - 37 - 1
S. Malik 6 - 0 - 32 - 0
Z. Babar 18 - 7 - 24 - 1
Umpire: Bruce Oxenford
Umpire: Paul Reiffel
TV umpire: Chris Gaffaney
Match referee: Andy Pycroft -Reuters