Chris Woakes says that England's battling performance with the ball on the third afternoon at Old Trafford, capped by Ben Stokes' late breakthroughs, has instilled the side with belief that they can still turn around the first Test, and hunt down a stiff fourth-innings target in spite of the challenge that Pakistan's twin legspinners are likely to cause on a dry and turning surface.

After conceding a first-innings deficit of 107, Woakes was instrumental in England's partial comeback with the ball, claiming the key wickets of Babar Azam and Azhar Ali as Pakistan reached the close on 137 for 8, a lead of 244.

However, the vital breakthroughs arrived in the final hour of the day, when Stokes - who had not bowled in the first innings after aggravating a quad strain in the West Indies series - was thrown the ball for his first spell of the match. He responded with two late strikes as Pakistan lost three for 17 before stumps, and afterwards, Woakes hailed yet another showing of his never-say-die spirit.

"I had no idea if he was ready to bowl, but I'm not surprised that he can do what he does," Woakes said. "He's Ben Stokes, he's capable of miracles.

"The longer he's had to recover has helped, but it's nice to see him back with a ball in hand. He's got a bit of a golden arm, he always has a knack of picking up wickets, and when you're in a bit of a dogfight he's the sort of player you want in your team. Always putting his hand up and giving 110%, and he certainly did that in picking up a couple of quick wickets."

Nevertheless, with England obtaining a hint of reverse swing with the old ball, and Pakistan armed to the teeth with men who can exploit similar assistance, the challenge in the fourth innings is already a stiff one.

Only one team has previously chased more than 250 at Old Trafford - Michael Vaughan's men hunted down 294 against New Zealand in 2008 - but with Stokes in England's ranks to provide memories of their comeback from the dead against Australia at Headingley last year, Woakes insisted they would take the proactive approach.

"There's always belief," he said. "You have to believe, it'd be stupid to rock up tomorrow and think three quick wickets and we're done. You can't think like that. We'll hear overnight about records, but they are there to be broken. I remember being a part of a win at Edgbaston [against Pakistan in 2016] when we had a deficit of 100, and that was one of my favourite Test wins ever. We'll certainly give it a good go."

England's Test mindset has had a vastly more disciplined outlook since the end of the Trevor Bayliss regime last summer, with the new head coach Chris Silverwood favouring time at the crease and solid accumulation over the sort of frantic run-harvesting that England had previously targeted. But, given the unfamiliar threats posed by Pakistan's multi-faceted attack on a wicket that is beginning to misbehave, Woakes suggested that the side might choose to revert to type over the weekend.

"As soon as we lost the toss, it was always going to be challenging," he said. "We knew at some point we'd be batting on a fourth- or fifth-day pitch, so we've got to try and be proactive.

"They've obviously got two legspinners in the side, and a bit of variable bounce as well, so you have to play well and take the positive approach, rather than sitting in and doing it the long way. The longer you stay at the crease, the more you imagine there's one with your name on it."

Yasir Shah in particular has served notice of his threat with four first-innings wickets, and Woakes acknowledged that high-class legspin was not a weapon that this particular team had often encountered at Test level.

"[Yasir] thinks of wickets, which is the beauty for Pakistan," Woakes said. "He's an attacking legspinner, and he's always bringing in the stumps. He's got a googly that he hasn't been bowling that often, but when it's on the stumps, and he's spinning it like that, you're worried about both edges a little bit.

"We haven't faced much legspin, so we'll have to work on our feet a little bit and get used to it on the job, so to speak. But we've also seen a lot of footage of these guys, so we don't use that as an excuse.

"But you have to be proactive and put the pressure back on them," he added. "There is always that pressure for spinners in the fourth innings, so we'll try to remember that. Put them under pressure and make them feel it a little bit. We've certainly given ourselves a chance with the way we bowled today."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket