They repeated a costly habit when they lost all 10 wickets in a session on day two against India at Trent Bridge as they were bowled out for 161.
Despite an opening stand of 54, England conceded a lead of 168 as Hardik Pandya recorded only the second five-wicket haul of his first-class career.
After India then closed on 124 for two, Joe Root’s hosts are on course for a defeat which would bring their opponents right back into the series at 2-1 down with two to play.
England teams through the generations went almost 80 years without losing all their wickets in one session between 1938 and October 2016 – but they have now done so three times in 22 months.
Buttler said: “It’s very disappointing – after a really good start to the day as well, picking up those early wickets and being 50 for none.
“We let that slip. It’s important we can recognise why it’s happened, and improve.”
Despite some “very honest conversations” in the dressing-room, Buttler points out there is no “magic answer” to the problem.
Asked if England have yet worked out why they are so prone to collapse, he said: “Obviously not, if it keeps happening. Rightly, people say it’s been happening too often – which it has.
“Guys have got to improve. We know that as a side to get to where we want to go, we need to eradicate these collapses.”
That appears to be slightly easier said than done at present.
“The key is trying not to make the same mistakes,” Buttler said.
“You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again, whether that’s as an individual or as a team.
“There’s no real substitute for hard work.
“It comes down to how can you wrestle back the initiative – maybe with a counter-attacking style or someone trying to sit in and be a bit of a limpet for an hour and ride that session out.
“But obviously we weren’t good enough to do that today.”
England find themselves in a hole, but Buttler added: “No one’s going to give up, or throw the towel in.
“We’ve had a poor day today, very disappointing, but we’ll dust ourselves down and come back hard tomorrow.
“Everyone is striving to be the best they can – it’s not for a lack of trying. “We’ve had a very bad day, but we will come back hard.”
Pandya has had his own critics in the early stages of his Test career.
He let the ball do the talking, however, and said of his detractors: “I don’t play for them. I don’t even want to know or care what they say.
“I play for my country … that’s my job, and I am doing the right thing.
“My team is happy with me. Nothing else matters.”
AB de Villiers says his best ever international century was for South Africa in the Port Elizabeth Test against Australia earlier this year.
The 34-year-old called quits on his South Africa career in May, 14 years after making his debut for his country in 2004.
During that time, he scored 22 centuries in 114 Tests and 25 in his 228 ODIs as he established himself as one of the world’s best batsmen.
His last international series came against Australia in May, where he scored an unbeaten 126 in the second Test to help South Africa level the series which the hosts would later go on to win.
The all-rounder rated that knock as his best in South Africa colours.
“I think my most memorable knocks have always been in the longer version of the game – Test cricket – and none better than that last hundred that I scored in PE (Port Elizabeth) against the Australians,” he was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
“That was the most enjoyable series in my life. I had doubts that I would come back, I always wanted to just come and play for another season or two.
“I wasn’t 100 per cent sure that I’m going to finish after the Australian series, but the plan was to come back, and I’m really proud of the fact that I could come back and played two of my best series for my country.”
In a career spanning 14 years, de Villiers admitted he would not played for so long if he didn’t have the passion.
“I’ve had that from a very young age, and I don’t think it’s something you can teach a youngster – it’s just a deep desire and a hunger and a love for something that you’re never going to give up,” he said.
“So I was always going to try as much as I can, as hard as I could, to become the best player in the world.”
The batsman is only a handful of cricketers to excel in all three formats and he insists it’s all down to having the same fundamentals.
“I base my plan on the same fundamentals and the same basics in all three of the formats that I play in,” he added.
“I’ve never changed that. The only thing that changes is my mindset a little bit at times.
“I’ve always kept it very simple. I’m a big believer that basics stay the same for all the formats. I don’t overthink things.
“I want my mind to be 100 per cent clear so I try not to think about too many things.
“I’ll have a bit of a pre-ball routine. I’ll make my mark, and then once I switch on and the bowler’s coming in, I try and think of absolutely nothing.
“I try and make sure that I see the ball coming out of the bowler’s hands, and then my technique and my body take over. I clear my mind and see the ball out of the bowler’s hand – that’s all I think about in all three of the formats.”
Kohli made 97 and Ajinkya Rahane contributed 81 as they shared India’s ground-record fourth-wicket stand to give the tourists a foothold at last in the series where they trail 2-0.
India reached 307 for six at stumps after Joe Root put them in.
The scene was set here for Stokes to take centre stage on his return to Test cricket, a controversial selection with some despite his affray acquittal at Bristol Crown Court on Tuesday.
Woakes took three for 75 on Saturday, having stepped into the side and impressed at Lord’s last week when Stokes was busy in Bristol.
Kohli and Rahane shut out England during the afternoon and well into the evening, before both fell short of three figures – Kohli eventually caught at slip by Stokes, aiming to hit an Adil Rashid leg-break for the boundary which would have completed his hundred.
India nonetheless held sway, debutant wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant hitting his first Test runs with a six over long-on second ball off Rashid in a handy stand with Hardik Pandya either side of the second new ball.
The tourists appeared determined from the outset to make sure England’s bowlers would have to work harder here than for their quickfire, landslide win at rainy Lord’s.
The new ball swung prodigiously under cloud cover.
The result was a partnership of 60, at that point India’s highest for any wicket in the series, only for the introduction of Woakes to spark a lunchtime wobble.
Dhawan’s was the first of three wickets to fall for 22 runs, neatly caught at second slip as he edged one on the back-foot defence.
Rahul was then unable to handle exaggerated seam movement, which pinned him lbw defending deep in his crease, before Cheteshwar Pujara hooked the last ball of the morning straight to Rashid at long leg.
Kohli stood aghast at the non-striker’s end, all the more entrenched for the second session as he and Rahane duly put together an exemplary stand.
There was barely an anxious moment as they profited especially off Stokes and also when Root turned to Rashid – who was farmed, risk-free, for almost six an over in his first spell.
The evening began with a wonderful effort by James Anderson while attempting a one-handed catch above his head at point as Rahane launched a ferocious cut at Woakes on 57.
It stopped a certain four but Anderson could not hold on, and it was only a moment of brilliance from Alastair Cook at slip that eventually broke the partnership – Rahane with the edge off Stuart Broad and England’s former captain displaying memorable reactions to hold the half-chance one-handed away to his left.
Kohli seemed sure to bag his second century of the summer, until his misadventure against Rashid.
Stat: This is just the second time that Kohli has been dismissed in the 90s in Tests.— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) August 18, 2018
Previous instance was 96 in the 2nd innings at the Wanderers in 2013. After that knock, 17 times he scored 100s in between when he reached 90. #ENGVIND
But India still finished on top.
Keaton Jennings put down a straightforward catch at third slip when Broad got extra bounce to hit Pandya on glove and shoulder – but the deserving Anderson had the same batsman edging the final ball of the day for Jos Buttler’s second slip catch.