England v South Africa: Steven Finn keeps England hopes alive
|Third Test, Lord's (day three):|
|South Africa 309 & 145-3 v England 315|
England's hopes of saving their number one ranking hang in the balance after a fascinating third day in the final Test against South Africa at Lord's.
Although the home side claimed a first-innings lead of six, the Proteas moved to 145-3 by the close, 139 ahead.
Earlier, Jonny Bairstow fell five short of a maiden Test century for England, but a last-wicket stand of 32 between Graeme Swann, who made 37 not out, and Steven Finn earned them a slim first-innings advantage.
Swann removed Graeme Smith and Stuart Broad accounted for Alviro Petersen in quick succession, before Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis looked set to take South Africa to the close.
However, Finn nipped one down the slope to trap Kallis lbw for 31 late in the day, breaking a third-wicket stand of 81 and reviving England's fading hopes of securing the victory that will earn them a series draw.
With Amla - dropped on two by Matt Prior - unbeaten on 57, the hosts need further wickets on Sunday morning if they are to avoid being batted out of the match, the series and their place at the top of the rankings.
Under the burning London sun, the pitch played easier than over the two previous days, and England can expect little assistance in bowling out a South Africa side under no pressure to set a target.
Andrew Strauss's side began the day hoping to at least match the tourists' first-innings 309, with hopes of parity seeming to rest on the shoulders of not-out pair Bairstow and Prior.
They moved through the early exchanges without trouble, only for Prior to drive wildly at the first delivery with the second new ball, bowled by Vernon Philander, and present Kallis with a sharp chance at second slip.
Bairstow, who played an integral role in again looked fluent, leaving well and driving on both sides of the wicket.
After Broad popped a catch to short-leg off Dale Steyn, Bairstow found a willing ally in the aggressive Swann, but was stifled by some tight bowling, spending 43 minutes in the nineties.
Eventually, after facing 14 consecutive dot balls, he looked to force a straight delivery from Morne Morkel through the on side and was bowled middle and off stump.
Swann added 19 with James Anderson, who dealt well with a barrage of short bowling before eventually fending another Steyn bumper to gully.
Still England looked likely to concede a deficit, but with Finn - trusted by Swann to take the strike - dealing bravely with the short bowling and assured when defending the full, England inched onwards.
When Steyn bowled around the wicket, Finn hooked for four, with the partisan crowd given further enjoyment when Smith dropped a regulation catch off the England number 11 at first slip.
Finn eventually shovelled Morkel to JP Duminy at point, but the tide, momentarily, was with England.
They would have hoped to capitalise with wickets before tea, but Smith and Petersen were able to blunt the new ball with few problems.
Yet England restricted the scoring rate to around two runs an over and were rewarded when both openers fell lbw playing across the line, Smith to Swann and Petersen to Broad.
Amla and Kallis repaired the damage, although Amla was reprieved by a diving Prior down the leg side and survived two huge lbw appeals from Swann.
The pair appeared to be batting South Africa into a position of control until Finn got one to seam back into Kallis's pads four overs from the close.
The veteran all-rounder immediately called for a review when umpire Simon Taufel's finger was raised. However, with Hawk-Eye suggesting the ball was clipping leg stump and no inside edge apparent, he left the field visibly unhappy with a decision for the second time in the match.
England had the late boost they needed, but Sunday morning promises to be crucial as they try to preserve their number one status.