James Anderson accepted England are "up against it" after ending day three of the first #raisethebat Test 99 runs adrift of the West Indies.
The tourists established a sizeable lead of 114 after posting 318 under the first bright skies of the week at the Ageas Bowl, though England openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley nudged that down into double figures during a tense 10-over spell against the new ball.
Clearing the rest of the deficit and setting a match-winning chase is sure to be a tricky task against a high-class bowling line-up but Anderson combined realism with optimism as he assessed the home side's chances.
"The West Indies have had the best of the first few days certainly, we are up against it," he said.
"But we know exactly what we've got to do. If we bat well and get a decent lead, get a bit ahead, we can give ourselves a chance of bowling them out in the fourth innings of the game.
"It's not been our best performance with bat or ball so we've got work to do. I don't know about the pitch breaking up but it might get a little bit lower.
"We'll need a little bit of luck. We don't want it to deteriorate too much tomorrow obviously and then on the final day it can do as much as it wants."
Anderson claimed three for 62 in a typically reliable stint, while first-time captain Ben Stokes stepped up with his best figures for two years, four for 49.
Great expectations for the all-out pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer failed to be met, the 44 overs of the effort from the pair yielding only a No.11 scalp in Shannon Gabriel.
Anderson praised the skipper's contribution, picking up the slack with three of the last four wickets in the evening, adding: "Ben did a brilliant job. There were some decent miles in the legs of me, Jof and Woody so those wickets were crucial.
"I thought Woody and Jofra bowled really well, but you have days like this in Test cricket. Jofra got a wicket off a no-ball - if he gets that, his confidence goes up and he could get on a roll. With Woody, I felt he bowled well in periods and on another day could have had more."
West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite, whose 65 is the current top score of the match, was the first of Stokes' quartet on a tight lbw decision.
Shane Dowrich also made a valuable 61 before succumbing to the all-rounder.
"England bowled well and it was really challenging throughout the day, always aggressive," he said. "So I think Dowrich and I did a good job for the team. It's a low-scoring game but I still think it's a decent pitch and once guys get in runs can be scored."
The first hour was slow and steady, containing just two boundaries and one aborted celebration for the fielding side - when Archer won an lbw against Shai Hope only for replays to show a no-ball.
Hope fell immediately after drinks, and without adding to his score of 16, as he drove hard at Dom Bess and edged to Stokes.
Brathwaite progressed more comfortably, converting his overnight 20 into both the first 50 of the match and his own first since July 2018. His hopes of progressing towards three figures ended at Stokes' hand, rapped high on the knee roll but deep enough in his crease for the umpire to raise the finger.
Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase picked up the run-rate before lunch but saw the brakes applied by Anderson and Bess in the afternoon's play.
Brooks wafted the bat at Anderson and was on his way for 39 as Jos Buttler gathered the catch. It did not take long to exhaust Jermaine Blackwood's notoriously small reserves of patience, the recalled No.6 hacking Bess to mid-off to make it 186 for five.
Chase and Dowrich put on the biggest stand of the match, 81.
Anderson's enduring accuracy eventually earned an lbw against the dogged Chase, but without a big effort from Stokes the last session might still have slipped through England's fingers.
First he evened the score with opposite number Holder, who had dismissed him on day two. Stokes kept pounding in, toppling Alzarri Joseph's stumps then strangling Dowrich down the leg-side.
Durham team-mate Woodcastled last man Gabriel.