The tourist’s chances of winning were diminishing after a stubborn partnership of 90 between captain Mahela Jayawardene and Thilan Samaraweera.
However, Graeme Swann claimed the wickets of Samaraweera and nightwatchman Suraj Randiv to put his side back on course for victory.
“I thought the energy was brilliant and we got our reward at the end,” said Prior. “Today’s been a tough day and the whole bowling unit did fantastically well.”
“Our bowlers did a fantastic job today in sticking to their guns.”
England were struggling for wickets and needed a stroke of luck to keep the momentum in the unrelenting conditions.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, well set on 35, was given out caught at slip even though several replays failed to show a nick.
“As far as I was concerned, Dilshan hit it – I would have referred it if it hadn’t been given out,” said Prior.
“Are we 100 per cent certain he didn’t hit it? There’s no Hot Spot at moment so that will bring in a bit of criticism but we thought he hit it.
“He was given out, end of story. The important thing with the review system is that you get the right decision – some will argue it was, some that it wasn’t.
“We’re in a great position to win a Test match. When we lost the toss, if you’d have said we’d have them [effectively] 33-6 we would have taken that.”
Andrew Strauss’s England must win the match to retain their number one Test ranking.
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly