Firstly with the bat, then with the ball Stuart Broad has almost single-handedly kept England alive in this pulsating Test match. It's quite a turnaround for someone who was one tough call away from being sent back to county cricket, but now he has a career-best 6 for 46 and a hat-trick to his name.

In a neat turn of events Broad was the third victim of the last Test hat-trick when Peter Siddle struck at Brisbane in the opening Test last November. On Friday he inflicted India's first three-in-three in Test cricket and the 12th by an England bowler when he had MS Dhoni caught at slip, Harbhajan Singh lbw despite an edge and clean-bowled Praveen Kumar. The sight of a bowler in full, destructive, flow is thrilling viewing and Broad has shown his capability for such bursts before at The Oval and Durban in 2009. This, though, reached a new level.

His spell with the second new-ball was worth 5 for 5 as, for the second time in two days, England claimed the final session of the day to keep themselves in touch in a match that was drifting away while Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh, who was dropped off Broad when he had 4, added 128. As Broad hustled through the lower order the atmosphere became electric; a hat-trick always conjures huge emotion but the intimacy of English grounds - and Trent Bridge especially - made this a compelling moment.

"The crowd were fantastic today and they lifted us with that second new ball, they knew it was going to be a key period as the players did," Broad said. "It was quite a fearsome atmosphere for the Indian batsmen to come into."

Fearsome, maybe, but Broad still had to keep his cool and it was a mark of his soaring confidence that the hat-trick ball was full at the stumps when so many are often off target as the bowler gets carried away. His family, including father Chris Broad, were in the stands watching. It wasn't Broad's first hat-trick, but he had to go back his teenage years at Oakham School to remember his previous ones.

"The atmosphere wasn't quite as good at school with the parents watching," he joked. "In the context of the game it was important to pick those wickets up quickly so to get a hat-trick was special but it won't mean much if we don't go on and win this Test. You always have fond memories when you win so it's important we go on and build a big score which we have done a lot in the past year."

And that win won't be easy; the last England hat-trick was taken by Ryan Sidebottom, at Hamilton, in a Test that was lost. They have already lost Alastair Cook, have Jonathan Trott injured, are still 43 behind and will face a fairly new ball in the morning. "We are still a little bit behind in this Test but hopefully we can have a blazer of a day tomorrow and put us in the ascendancy," Broad said.

It could be suggested that if England want to be the best in the world then they shouldn't put themselves in such difficult positions. However, the character to keep fighting back is not to be sniffed at and something this team has in bucket loads. Remember the World Cup where each calamitous group-stage defeat was followed by an often mind-boggling victory? There is the danger of inconsistency from them, but they have a belief to come back for a difficult session, day or match.

"There's a lot of positive talking in the dressing room," Broad said. "We are very good at reassessing the position we are in and setting new goals. We knew after tea it would be a huge effort to fight through - we probably weren't expecting to bowl India out - but we wanted to go at two-and-a-half an over and really clog them down then pick up a couple of wickets. To bowl them out was pretty special but Saturday will be our biggest test in this match to see if we can get 300 runs."

Yet for all the emotion created by Broad's hat-trick England didn't make the most of the conditions especially in the first two sessions while dropped catches raised their head again. The match could yet come to be decided by Kevin Pietersen's spill at gully when Yuvraj was in single figures. The fifth-wicket stand with Dravid wasn't terminated until they'd put India in the lead.

Andrew Strauss played down the missed chances before this game - he was guilty of two at Lord's - saying the team catch most on offer, but two more here (Alastair Cook shelled one off Ishant Sharma late in the innings) will frustrate Andy Flower and Richard Halsall, the fielding coach, while Strauss told his team at tea to lift their energy levels.

Dropping Yuvraj was a bit of a concern when he and Dravid were going well," Broad admitted. "We knew that new-ball period would be a huge hour for us. Strauss asked as a tea if we could raise our intensity during that hour to put some pressure on the Indian batsmen. Fortunately there was some swing and the edges came our way. We've got ourselves back in this game. Like I said yesterday India probably won three quarters of the day and we've nicked the last session."

Two post-tea surges have kept England within touching distance, but they can't afford to keep leaving their best performances for so late in the day if they want to extend their series lead in Nottingham. And Broad would probably be grateful for some help.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo