Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan off-spinner, tried to peg back Sri Lanka's victory bid with two wickets in the final hour of the fourth day's play in the third and final Test at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Despite the wickets of Angelo Mathews (13) and Kaushala Silva (nought), Sri Lanka were leading by 237 runs with five wickets in hand, and the visitors were confident some quick 50-odd runs will be enough to force a win tomorrow and level the series.
The first match in Abu Dhabi ended in a draw.
The confidence came from a weary pitch where the spinners – Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Abdul Rehman – troubled the batsmen with spin and deliveries that kept low.
Tharanga Paranavitana and Kumar Sangakkara scored half centuries to keep Sri Lanka in the hunt after Pakistan folded up for 340 in their first innings after resuming the day at resuming on 282 for six.
Paranavitana, dropped on two and 25, batted valiantly as they lost Tillakaratne Dilshan (four), Sangakkara (51) and Mahela Jayawardene (20) while in search for quick runs.
Paranavitana has so far hit four boundaries and a six during his enterprising 156-ball knock.
Paceman Umar Gul provided Pakistan with a quick breakthrough as he dismissed Dilshan, caught in the slip off the fifth ball of the innings.
Sangakkara, who collected 516 runs from the six innings at an average of 86 in this series, added 75 for the second wicket with Paranavitana before he was caught off spinner Hafeez, causing a middle-order slump.
Jayaywardene also fell to Gul, trapped leg-before wicket.
Hafeez said Pakistan remain positive for a win. "We, as a team, remain positive and will see how things go on Monday," said Hafeez. "The pitch is still good but it will be the fifth day and we have to remain positive for a victory."
Left-arm paceman Chanaka Welegadara hoped Sri Lanka get quicky 50 runs to put pressure on Pakistan.
"We want to get 50 quick runs so that we can put pressure on Pakistan, we desperately need to win this Test," said Welegadara, who took his maiden five-wicket haul, finishing with 5-87.
Misbah-ul Haq missed his hundred by just 11 runs as Pakistan conceded a lead of 73 runs.