India were making steady progress as they targeted what would be a series-clinching win in the fourth one-day international in Mohali.
Victory would see the hosts to an unassailable 3-1 lead and they reached 64 for one after 15 overs in pursuit of 258.
England needed regular wickets to fall to press their case, but one drop and another chance that landed between two men slowed their charge.
England's innings of 257 for seven was earlier built around careful knocks of 76 from Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen and a wonderful 57 not out from rookie Joe Root.
Indian openers Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma, the latter recalled in place of Ajinkya Rahane, both got off the mark with boundaries, but Steven Finn exerted some control with a maiden in the third over.
Gambhir threaded a second four through cover before he was first man out in the sixth over, Tim Bresnan finding the edge. Jos Buttler, named in place of the dropped Craig Kieswetter, could not have wished for an easier catch behind the stumps and gathered it cleanly.
Bresnan almost gave England a second breakthrough when Sharma gave Pietersen a chance at mid-on on 12, but he could not control it one-handed and the ball squirmed free.
Virat Kohli was next to enjoy a slice of luck on two, top-edging Finn high into the air and seeing the ball land between Buttler and the advancing fine-leg, Bresnan. There was a hint of hesitation from Buttler, perhaps belying his relative inexperience with the gloves.
Jade Dernbach, lucky to keep his place after a poor series, was loose again and shipped 17 runs in his first two overs.
At the 15-over mark Sharma had 32, with Kohli on 20.