The two batsmen looked to play for time and cut out any aggressive strokes.
Ashwin struck again with the key wicket of the left-handed opener, who dragged a bottom-edge onto his stumps when he was in sight of a sixth Test hundred.
To say that Abhinav Mukund has been to hell and back would be overstating things, but it would be fair to say that he has endured the cricketing equivalent of just such a journey.
Pandya is a good bowling option to have when the main ones aren't ticking.
India captain Virat Kohli feels all-rounder Hardik Pandya has the required skill-set to excel in all formats for the team. It was a massive moment, Sri Lanka's most accomplished batsman dismissed in the most ungainly fashion with so much riding on his shoulders.
The early difference between Dhoni's latter reign and Kohli's early captaincy was the identification and acceptance of this problem.
The 35-year-old right-hander showed both caution and aggression during his 126-ball knock, hitting four sixes and 10 fours to rattle the opposition bowlers.
With the bat in hand, that is Rohit Sharma, period. Karunaratne was stranded in the 90s for 32 balls before getting out.
"That was a Test we should have won". Kohli went from pace to all-out spin by the 16th over, but the third-wicket pair continued on its merry ways until Jadeja got one to turn and bounce to defeat Mendis's push off the back foot and put Wriddhiman Saha in business. The hosts still need another 358 runs with five wickets remaining.
Stuart Binny was the obvious choice.
Mendis got out at 108 after making 36 off 71 deliveries with three boundaries as Sri Lanka slid down to 116-4 in no time.
"I think when you play away from home that one guy gives you lot of balance and I think Hardik can be that balance for us especially playing cricket away from home". Kohli reached his milestone in only his 58th Test.
8 - Test wins for India when none of their bowlers picked up more than three wickets in an innings. They have since given away 524 for 5 in New Zealand and 575 for 9 in England, but have generally been more penetrative at home. Ravindra Jadeja took his wicket and provided the much-needed break through by breaking this brewing partnership.
Despite it not being a memorable match for the Sri Lankan team, fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep impressed as he took career-best bowling figures of 6-132 in India's first innings.
Two balls after an appeal for a catch off his boot was turned down, Perera was adjudged lbw to Jadeja. It is not to say that Ashwin loses his effectiveness as a stand-alone spinner in overseas conditions.