England were 302 for seven in reply to Pakistan's first-innings 174, a lead of 128 runs, at the close of the second day of the second Test at Headingley on Saturday.
Jos Buttler was 34 not out and Sam Curran 16 not out.
Earlier, Dominic Bess belied his position as a night watchman by guiding England into a first-innings lead against Pakistan on a rain-marred day.
England were 199 for three at tea, 25 runs in front, after rain meant there was no play before lunch.
Bess was 40 not out, having scored 57 on debut during England's thumping nine-wicket defeat by Pakistan in the first Test at Lord's.
Together with Dawid Malan (27 not out) he had put on an unbroken 61 for the fourth wicket after England captain Joe Root fell for 43 to the disappointment of his Yorkshire home crowd.
England were 106 for two, 68 runs adrift of Pakistan's lowly 174, when play eventually got underway at 2:45pm (local time) some several hours after the scheduled 11am start time.
Root was 29 not out and Bess, who came in as a nightwatchman late Friday following Alastair Cook's exit for 44, unbeaten on nought.
Bess, selected primarily as an off-spinner but yet to take a Test wicket, made light of the overcast, bowler-friendly conditions to cover-drive left-arm quick Mohammad Amir for a well-struck four.
It was one of several stylish boundaries hit by the 20-year-old Bess that included a well-timed on-drive off Mohammad Abbas.
With Bess playing shots worthy of a top-order batsman, England lost Root.
The England skipper has been criticised for a repeated failure to convert Test fifties into his hundreds. But on Saturday he exited for 45.
The right-hander, chasing a scrambled seam delivery from Amir angled across him, succeeded only in getting a thin edge to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed, with the Pakistan captain joyfully accepting the easy catch.
Left-hander Malan made an uncertain start before finding his touch with several boundaries, including a square driven four off Abbas.
And when Bess swept leg-spinner Shadab Khan, England had the lead.
England, looking to bounce back from their nine-wicket thrashing in the first Test at Lord's and end the two-match series all square at 1-1, ended the opening day just 68 runs behind Pakistan's lowly first-innings 174.
Pakistan only need to avoid defeat at Headingley to seal a first series win in England for 22 years. So any rain delays, which would reduce the amount of time available to England to win the game, were likely to be a boost to the tourists.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and decided to bat on a good pitch but humid and overcast conditions created an environment that assisted swing and seam bowling.
England, bowling a fuller length than at Lord's, with pacemen Stuart Broad, James Anderson and the recalled Chris Woakes all taking three wickets apiece in an innings where Pakistan were indebted to teenager Shadab Khan's 56 — the 19-year-old's third fifty in as many Tests.
England were without Ben Stokes after the all-rounder suffered a hamstring tear that threatens to keep him on the sidelines for at least a month.
Keaton Jennings, who replaced the dropped Mark Stoneman in one of three changes to England's XI, shared an opening stand of 53 with Alastair Cook before he was caught behind off Faheem Ashraf.
Cook, appearing in a record-breaking 154th consecutive Test as he went past the mark he had previously shared with Australia great Allan Border, made 46.
England's all-time leading Test run-scorer did not look in any trouble until, shortly before Friday's close, he gloved a hook off fast bowler Hasan Ali to wicket-keeper Sarfraz.
Defeat for England would see them slip to an 18-year low of seventh in the International Cricket Council's Test rankings.
England have not been so far down the standings since being ranked seventh in October 1999.
They started that year fourth but a team led by Nasser Hussain won just one of eight Tests during the next 12 months before the appointment of former Zimbabwe all-rounder Duncan Fletcher as coach led to an upturn in England's fortunes.
Now England, who have lost six of their last eight Tests, are battling to avoid a third straight series loss following recent reverses in Australia and New Zealand.
Defeat in Leeds and a 2-0 series result would see England drop 93 ranking points. In that case, the would be overtaken by Pakistan, who will rise to 95, as well as Sri Lanka (94).