Kaushal Silva was eight runs away from a maiden century as Sri Lanka took control on day two of the second Test against Pakistan in Dubai.
Opener Silva, playing his fifth Test, reached tea on 92 not out in a score of 215 for three, already 50 ahead of Pakistan's 165 all out.
Sri Lanka did not lose a wicket in the afternoon session as Silva inched towards his landmark and Mahela Jayawardene supported him with an unbeaten half-century.
Silva, resuming on 12 from an overnight total of 57 for one, was watchful in the morning as he advanced to 40 not out in a lunch score of 132 for three.
Kumar Sangakkara and Dinesh Chandimal were the batsmen whose wickets fell.
Sangakkara followed up a streaky boundary down to third man with a rather more assured cover drive two balls later off Rahat Ali, but the bowler had his revenge in his next over when he trapped the number three lbw for 26.
Chandimal got off the mark with an edge through a gap in the slip cordon for four, but he failed to make the most of his let-off when, on 12, he hooked Junaid Khan to Rahat at long leg.
Silva showed his team-mate how it was done in the next over, pulling Rahat through square leg for four, while Jayawardene, demoted to number five in the order after a poor run in Tests, looked assured.
The pair continued their solid form after lunch, gathering 83 runs without loss in the session.
Silva's 50 came in the 50th over with a pulled four off the otherwise tight Saeed Ajmal and his sixth boundary - a clean cut off Rahat - moved Sri Lanka into the lead.
The 27-year-old found the ropes four more times before the tea break, while Jayawardene, playing within himself at the other end, reached fifty with a single just before the interval.