Jonathan Trott remorselessly ground his way to England's highest individual Test score against Sri Lanka on another rain-affected day in Cardiff.
When play finally started at 1430 BST Sri Lanka quickly removed Alastair Cook after adding four to his overnight 129.
Kevin Pietersen soon followed, lbw to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath.
But Trott finally fell for 203 having put on 160 with Ian Bell (98 not out) as England closed on 491-5, a lead of 91 in a match surely bound for a draw.
Day four of the first Test was just the latest frustrating day weather-wise in a chilly and blustery Cardiff, with rain ensuring an early lunch, and even then another shower meant the planned 1330 start was delayed by a further hour.
But Trott was unflustered and dominated proceedings once play got under way, rarely looking in anything other than total control as he scored his second Test double-hundred.
When the game finally resumed Sri Lanka's conservative bowling lines, with a spinner bowling around the wicket into the footholes to the right-handers, helped ensure England inched along at less than three runs an over in the two hours before tea.
On day three Trott and Cook, continuing their fine form from the Ashes in Australia, had been as persistent as the rain was to prove on Sunday morning.
But they added only 11 to their partnership of 240, with Cook slashing off the back foot at Farveez Maharoof and being caught behind by Prasanna Jayawardene for 133.
That brought to the crease Pietersen, who had waited over 400 overs for either an Australian or Sri Lankan bowler to break Cook and Trott's run-laden partnership, and he soon found himself facing left-arm spinner Herath.
Pietersen has famously struggled against left-arm spinners and he soon succumbed for a 19th time in Tests to the breed, playing back to one that kept low.
The ball hit his back pad and bat at almost the same time and umpire Billy Doctrove initially ruled not out, but Sri Lanka referred it and when hot spot showed the ball had connected with the pad first - by a split second - Pietersen was on his way for three.
England's fans had begun the day hoping they would press on and look to build a big lead but the combination of the weather and the early dismissals ensured the atmosphere was as grey as the sky overhead for much of the first few hours.
Bell briefly gave them something to cheer about as he shimmied down the pitch and lofted Herath back over his head for a sweetly-struck six, the first of the match.
But he also enjoyed a couple of strokes of luck, first getting an inside edge to an attempted drive that flew past the keeper, and then offering a sharp chance to Kumar Sangakkara as he cut hard into the gully.
At the other end Trott went calmly about his business, mixing watchful defence with the odd classy drive, including one on the up through mid-off that drew oohs and aahs from the largely subdued crowd.
The low-key nature of the day was not helped by play resuming after tea three minutes later than it should have done.
England were 344-4 at the interval, with Trott on 147 not out, and he reached his 150 with a delightfully-timed clip through mid-wicket.
Although the pitch was generally on the slow side Thisara Perera got the odd ball to bounce sharply and three times in quick succession troubled Bell with lifting deliveries from the Cathedral End.
Bell also inside-edged a drive past the keeper but brought up his 50 soon after with a crisp pull to the boundary.
At the other end Trott had been steadily accumulating and after England went into the lead in the 133rd over, a superb on-drive took him past Graham Gooch's 174 to give him England's highest individual Test score against Sri Lanka.
In the process he also took the partnership with Bell past the 100 mark and they began to increase their scoring rate inside the final hour, with Trott twice hitting Ajantha Mendis to the boundary in an over as he closed on his double-century.
Bell twice switch-hit Herath for four as he moved into the 80s before Trott brought up his double hundred.
It had been an innings of extraordinary concentration from the England batsman but he finally fell just before the close, backing away to give himself room against Tillakaratne Dilshan and being bowled for 203 off 409 balls.
Bell was frustratingly left stranded two short of his century at the close.
With the forecast for Monday promising yet more rain it is odds on that the first Test will end as a victim of the wet weather in Wales.
But such was the quality of batting from Trott and Bell that what had looked for a long time like a pretty pointless exercise on Sunday will instead be remembered for a Test match batting masterclass from England.
Listen to Jonathan Agnew and Geoff Boycott's review of each day's play on the TMS Podcast page