James Anderson edged closer to becoming England's all-time Test wicket-taker as the tourists claimed the upper-hand with four West Indies first innings scalps on day two in Antigua.
The home side had crawled to 155-4 in 66 overs, still 244 runs behind the tourists, at the end of a day punctuated only occasionally by genuine excitement.
After England were dismissed for 399, adding just 58 to their overnight total in the morning session, Anderson claimed the wicket of Devon Smith (11) in the ninth over.
Chris Jordan and Stuart Broad removed Darren Bravo (10) and Marlon Samuels (33) respectively, before an inspired catch by Jordan off James Tredwell saw the hosts reduced to 99 for 4 as Kraigg Brathwaite (39) departed.
But an unbeaten 56-run stand between Shiv Chanderpaul (29) and Jermain Blackwood (30) kept the visitors at bay on a pitch which appears too slow for batsmen or fast bowlers to thrive.
West Indies were given a let off when Stokes had Blackwood caught behind. The Durham all-rounder had overstepped in his delivery stride, leaving captain Alastair Cook frustrated in his search for further inroads.
Despite losing centurion Ian Bell in the penultimate over of day one, England had ambitions of a rare score over 400, but those hopes were shattered as their remaining five wickets were removed in 20.4 overs.
Stokes was dismissed for 79 before Tredwell (8), Jos Buttler (0) and Broad (0) offered little resistance as West Indies took the initiative, just as they had done on the first morning. Kemar Roach managed to suck some life from the pitch, claiming 4-94.
Jordan made 21 and Anderson 20 to ensure the tourists did improve slightly on their overnight total but they knew an opportunity to bat just once in this match had passed them by.
With new ball bounce and swing immediately obvious when West Indies began their reply, it came as no surprise when Anderson took less than nine overs to dismiss opener Smith to inch closer to the all-time England Test wicket record.
As movement in the air became increasingly rare, England replicated the success of their opponents on the opening day with an old-fashioned approach, as Jordan and Broad produced the required length and variation to get rid of Bravo and Samuels.
Tredwell claimed his first test wicket since the tour of Bangladesh in 2010, Jordan producing a spellbinding one-handed catch to see off Brathwaite and leave the home side teetering.
Chanderpaul kept England at bay with his inimitable and often barely watchable defensive style, and when Stokes's dismissal of Blackwood was overruled after he overstepped it proved the final chance of a grinding second day.