Ultra-careful centuries by Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley allowed England to declare against the West Indies on 469-9 and reinforce their command of the second test two days in on Friday.
Giving themselves an hour to bowl at the visitors, England profited by dismissing John Campbell on 12 to leave West Indies 32-1 at stumps and seeking a face-saving draw.
The West Indies won the first test in Southampton last week as a front-runner, but it has trailed at Old Trafford for most of this test after wasting the initiative on Thursday.
Its morale was hammered on Friday as Stokes made 176 and Sibley 120 in a laborious stand worth 260, England’s biggest at home in nine years.
The batsmen came together when England was a precarious 81-3 on Thursday afternoon and the West Indies attack was finally focused, but Sibley, the opener, and the mercurial Stokes hunkered down. Their crawl continued on Friday, increasing England’s advantage hour by painstaking hour.
Sibley was first to a hundred — his second in tests — just before lunch. He gave a big fist pump to celebrate his 312-ball century, the slowest in test cricket since November 2014, when Tamim Iqbal also needed 312 balls for Bangladesh against Zimbabwe.
Stokes, on 99 at lunch, soon after brought up his 10th test hundred with a reverse sweep. It was his fourth hundred in 12 tests.
Sibley’s innings ended when he tried to up the run rate. He smashed spinner Roston Chase to Kemar Roach as he ran round from midwicket. Sibley faced 372 balls for his second highest test score, behind only the 133 he made against South Africa in Cape Town in January. He hit only five boundaries in more than nine hours at the crease.
Ollie Pope was then trapped plumb in front of the stumps on 7 by Chase, but Stokes, joined in the middle by Jos Buttler, had already begun to take advantage of the tired West Indian fast bowlers.
Stokes was dropped on 157 by Shai Hope at gully off Shannon Gabriel, and eventually dismissed after tea on 176, his second highest test score.
Stokes tried to reverse Roach and edged behind. He faced 356 balls, and hit two sixes and 17 fours.
Roach earned his first wicket since September, 71 overs into this series. Then he got another off the next delivery, when Chris Woakes edged his first ball to gully.
Buttler added 40 and Sam Curran 17, giving Chase a fifth wicket, though Roach bowled more impressively to return 2-58 from 33 overs.
England should have been all out, but Gabriel failed to run out Stuart Broad with the stumps at his mercy, and Roach let a shot from Dom Bess pass through his hands and over the boundary for a six.
Bess and Broad earned a bonus 20-plus runs as they plundered 42 runs from 39 balls before the declaration.
Broad, who had been angered at being dropped from the first test, opened the England attack but a wicket wasn’t taken until medium-pacer Sam Curran replaced Woakes and trapped Campbell after a review.
Fellow opener Kraigg Brathwaite was 6 not out, and nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph was 14 not out.