England's four-pronged pace attack bowled India out for 148 before the hosts reached 62 for no wicket in reply to take control of the fifth and final test on an absorbing first day at The Oval overnight.
Only a battling knock of 82 by India captain MS Dhoni saved the tourists from complete collapse and his last-wicket partnership of 58 with Ishant Sharma was by far the largest stand of the innings.
England captain Alastair Cook and Sam Robson gave the home side a solid start and, leading the series 2-1, they are in a strong position to clinch it.
''To bowl them out for under 150 is fantastic, and the way the boys batted at the end was brilliant,'' England all-rounder Chris Woakes said after completing test-best figures of three for 30.
''Dhoni played pretty well. When he's in that sort of mood he's pretty good at it. But we would have taken that at the start of the day. The pitch was a little bit helpful for us today and we got the rewards for it.''
Cook had little hesitation in choosing to field after winning the toss on an overcast morning in south London and India were soon in trouble.
James Anderson struck in the first over of the match, dismissing Gautam Gambhir for a golden duck when the left-hander tried to leave an outswinger and edged the ball to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
Cheteshwar Pujara never looked comfortable, crawling to four off 19 balls before he was bowled by Stuart Broad, who was named in the England side despite breaking his nose in the last test.
Virat Kohli hit the first boundary off the bat after 55 minutes of play but, on six, he left a straight ball from Chris Jordan and was adjudged lbw.
Ajinkya Rahane, on nought, got a leading edge in Jordan's next over and the bowler held a sharp return catch to reduce India to 28 for four.
Opener Murali Vijay batted 92 minutes for 18 runs before he prodded tamely at a full delivery from Woakes and edged a catch to Joe Root at third slip.
India struggled to 43 for five at lunch and Stuart Binny edged an Anderson outswinger to Cook at first slip before Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin shared a seventh-wicket partnership of 24.
Ashwin was superbly caught by Joe Root low down at third slip off Woakes for 13 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (5) slashed at a wide ball from Jordan and edged through to Buttler.
Woakes caught and bowled Varun Aaron for one before Dhoni went on the attack, reaching his 50 with his 10th four and disdainfully driving Jordan over extra cover for six.
India took tea on 125 for nine and Dhoni continued to spray the ball around the ground in the final session.
He hit 15 fours and batted for over three hours before pulling Broad straight into the hands of Woakes at long leg.
England's Cook and Robson batted cautiously, mixing a few crisp attacking strokes with watchful defence, though the captain was lucky to survive a strong lbw appeal by Kumar on nine.
England named the same team that won the fourth test while India made two changes, bringing in Binny for Ravindra Jadeja and fast bowler Sharma for Pankaj Singh.
Should bouncers be banned from cricket?