COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews hit his seventh test century to frustrate India and help the hosts reach 249-6 at tea on the final day of the third and final test on Tuesday.
Chasing a 386-run victory target, Sri Lanka lost two wickets in the morning session to reach 134-5 at lunch and be left staring at a series defeat.
Mathews and Perera, however, refused to throw in the towel, resisting India's victory push with some inspirational batting before Ravichandran Ashwin ended their 135-run stand.
Mathews was batting on 110 at the break with Rangana Herath (three) at the other end. The hosts needing 137 runs for an improbable victory while India required four wickets to clinch the series, currently locked at 1-1.
Resuming on 67-3, Sri Lanka lost Kaushal Silva (27) in the third over of the day with Umesh Yadav capitalising on the opener's penchant to play too many pull shots with a bouncer.
Off-spinner Ashwin struck the next blow, inducing a leading edge from Lahiru Thirimanne and Lokesh Rahul, at silly point, showed great anticipation as he leapt to stop the ball and took the catch on rebound.
Mathews found an able ally in Perera and the duo thwarted India for 38 overs at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
Mathews hit Stuart Binny for a boundary to bring up his century in 217 balls, a stellar knock under tremendous pressure.
Perera shone in his debut test as well, following his first innings half-century with an aggressive 70 before throwing away his wicket, reverse sweeping an Ashwin delivery to Rohit Sharma at point.
India have not won a test series in Sri Lanka since 1993.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Sudipto Ganguly/Patrick Johnston