The hosts, who trail the three-match series 1-0, need another 75 to win with three wickets and three sessions in hand
England sniff victory in second Sri Lanka Test before rain halts proceedings
Spinners led by Jack Leach helped England close in on a series-clinching victory after Sri Lanka lost a fighting Angelo Mathews for 88 in the second Test on Saturday before rain stopped play.
Moeen Ali trapped Mathews lbw in the first over after tea to end the senior batsman's solid resistance that had kept alive Sri Lanka's hopes of chasing down a target of 301.
Leach struck soon after to get Dilruwan Perera for one when torrential rain halted proceedings for the day with Sri Lanka on 226-7 in Kandy.
The hosts, who trail the three-match series 1-0, need another 75 to win with three wickets and three sessions in hand. Niroshan Dickwella was batting on 27 when play was stopped.
"It is evenly poised. Unfortunate I got out at a very crucial time. But we still have got a batter at the crease," a confident Mathews told reporters after an intriguing day's play.
"Then guys like Akila Dananjaya and Suranga Lakmal are no mugs with the bat. So we are not out of the game. If we get one good partnership we are in with a win."
Leach has claimed four wickets with his left-arm orthodox spin while Moeen has taken two on a turning pitch.
Mathews, who hit his third half-century of the series, took the crease with Sri Lanka on a shaky 26-3.
The former captain played a gritty innings that lasted 137 deliveries and also built crucial partnerships.
His 73-run fifth-wicket stand with Roshen Silva (37) frustrated the English spinners in the afternoon session.
Moeen had Silva caught behind with a faint edge. The umpire had given Silva not out before England successfully reviewed the decision in their favour.
"It is a wicket where there is lot of assistance to the spinners. Credit to England for bowling so well. They didn't give too many loose balls. We had to work extremely hard to score runs," Mathews said.
"Dimuth [Karunaratne] was superb today with the bat and it was extremely unfortunate that he had to fall for a brilliant catch.
"That changed the game. He was the batsman in form. Had we got a bigger partnership we would have been in a commanding position," he added.
Leach had rattled the Sri Lankan top-order with three early wickets after the tourists were bowled out for 346 in the morning session.
Left-handed opener Dimuth Karunaratne then put on 77 runs with Mathews before falling to Adil Rashid for 57.
England, who had resumed the day on 324-9, stretched their second innings lead to 300 with overnight batsman Ben Foakes hitting an unbeaten 65.
Foakes, who hit a ton on debut in Galle, added 14 to his overnight 51 and shared 41 runs for the last wicket with James Anderson (12).