Shan Masood scored a third century in as many innings and seamer Mohammad Abbas caused mayhem at the top of the England order as Pakistan moved ahead in the first test at the close of day two at Old Trafford on Thursday.
England are teetering at 92 for four, still 234 runs behind Pakistan's competitive first innings total of 326, a total boosted by a superb career-best 156 from opener Shan.
Much will likely depend on the current partnership at the wicket as Ollie Pope (46 not out) and Jos Buttler (15 not out) must engineer a rebuilding job as the last recognised batsmen.
With Chris Woakes set to come in at number seven, it is a long tail for the hosts and early Pakistan wickets on the third morning could see them finish well behind the tourists' first innings total.
Pakistan's seam attack was highlighted as a danger prior to the series and their first skirmish with the England batsmen ended in their favour.
Shaheen Afridi trapped Rory Burns (4) leg before wicket, before Abbas (2-24) did likewise to Dom Sibley (8), and then claimed the prize wicket of Ben Stokes for a duck, the ball clipping the off-stump with a subtle nip away off the pitch.
Captain Joe Root (14) was subdued and then out, edging leg-spinner Yasir Shah to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Pakistan resumed the second day on 139 for two, but added only 48 runs in the morning session at a paltry rate of 1.85 per over, also losing key batsman Babar Azam (69), Asad Shafiq (7) and Rizwan (9).
But for the first hour after lunch, they upped the tempo considerably as Shan and Shadab Khan (45) punished England's limp attack, adding 105 runs in little more than 25 overs for the sixth wicket.
Shan batted for 319 deliveries to anchor the innings before he was trapped leg before wicket by Stuart Broad (3-54).
Pakistan's long tail was wrapped up with fiery fast bowler Jofra Archer (3-59) contributing to their demise.