Set 264 to win, Pakistan were 158 for five at the close of play, setting up a tense last day with Zimbabwe having a realistic chance of sharing the series and earning a rare victory against one of cricket's major nations.
Misbah was unbeaten on 26 and will resume batting on Saturday with wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal (17 not out), with Pakistan needing another 106 runs to win. Pakistan made an aggressive start to the chase after bowling out Zimbabwe for 199, breaking a trend of slow scoring on a wearing, cracked pitch.
But they were forced to become more cautious as the Zimbabwe bowlers struck at regular intervals. Tendai Chatara made a crucial breakthrough when he dismissed Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali in quick succession to reduce Pakistan to 46 for two in the 12th over.