Alastair Cook marked his final Test appearance with a fifty before India's Jasprit Bumrah sparked an England collapse at the Oval on Friday.
England only lost one wicket before tea and were making steady, if slow, progress at 131 for one on the first day of the fifth Test.
But Cook's exit sparked a slump that saw six wickets lost for 48 runs, with England captain Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran all dismissed for noughts.
At stumps, England were 198 for seven, with Ishant Sharma taking three for 28 in a miserly 22 overs and fellow paceman Bumrah two for 41 in 21 that included two wickets in four balls.
England scored at barely two runs per over for the day.
Cook, England's all-time record Test run-scorer, was making his final appearance at this level before international retirement.
The 33-year-old opener, who will continue to play for Essex, came into this match having scored 12,254 Test runs at an average of 44.88 including 32 hundreds.
But he has struggled for runs lately, with his previous best score this series the 29 he made during India's 203-run win in the third Test at Trent Bridge.
Cook, extending his England appearance record to 161 Tests, was thrust straight into the action when Root, his successor as England captain, opted to bat first after winning the toss.
England had already won this five-match series after a 60-run victory at Southampton gave them a 3-1 lead.
Cook, who walked out to a guard of honour from India, struck two trademark boundaries off successive balls from Bumrah -- a square-cut and a pull.
Keaton Jennings, under pressure for his England place, made 23 in an opening stand of 60 with Cook before he carelessly turned left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja to KL Rahul at leg-slip.
England were 68 for one at lunch, with Cook 37 not out and Moeen -- one of a trio of left-handers in England's top three -- two not out.
Both batsmen were dropped on their interval scores.
Cook was missed by Ajinkya Rahane in the gully off Sharma and India captain Virat Kohli floored a far more difficult chance at third slip after Mooen flashed hard at Bumrah.
Luckless paceman Mohammed Shami repeatedly beat the outside edge without reward.
Cook cut Jadeja for four to go to 49 before completing a 139-ball fifty, including six boundaries, with a capacity crowd giving him a standing ovation.
Remarkably,it was the first fifty by an opening batsman on either side this series.
Cook scored a century on his Test debut, against India at Nagpur in 2006.
But his hopes of becoming just the fifth player to score a hundred in both their first and last Tests would have to wait until England's second innings.
His typically patient vigil of more than four hours ended after tea when, playing defensively, he inside-edged Bumrah onto his stumps to end a 190-ball innings including eight fours.
Cook walked off to this third standing ovation of the day.
Root may have been batting in his favoured position of number four, but three balls later he was lbw to Bumrah as he played across the line.
Bairstow then fell for his third nought in four innings when he jabbed at a Sharma delivery to give wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant a simple catch.
England had now lost three wickets for one run in nine balls.
Jadeja, playing his first match this series in place of injured off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, then had Ben Stokes lbw for 11.
Moeen, batting in England's longstanding problem position of number three, completed a 167-ball half-century only to fall for exactly 50 when he hung his bat out to Sharma and was caught behind.
Curran had revived England from the depths of 86 for six in their first innings at Southampton but, on his Surrey home ground, he was caught behind second ball off Sharma.