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Pietersen, who hasn't made a Test hundred in some 17 months, was on 41 when he backed away as Mohammad Asif ran into bowl, indicating he wasn't ready to face the delivery.
But, with Asif in delivery stride, the ball was let go and Pietersen, bizarrely, played a casual drive that lobbed gently into the air.
In an innings where the tourists dropped six catches, Pakistan captain Butt held an easy chance at mid-off and appealed.
However, South African umpire Marais Erasmus insisted he had called dead ball, rendering the catch invalid.
Pakistan, in common with many spectators, did not appear to have either heard Erasmus, standing in only his third Test, or seen his signal.
However, if Erasmus had called dead ball before Pietersen played his shot, he could not have been given out.
Butt argued his case with Erasmus and, just briefly, the spectre of the Oval Test of 2006, where Pakistan forfeited the match having been penalised by the umpires for ball-tampering, loomed large over Edgbaston.
Pietersen went on to make 80 - eight more than Pakistan's meagre first innings 72 - in a total of 251. At stumps, Pakistan were 19 for one in second innings, needing a further 160 to make England bat again and avoid an innings defeat that would leave them 2-0 down in the four-match series.
Butt was in conciliatory mood when it came to 'reprieve' of Pietersen, who was dropped three times in his innings.
"That's what I've been told by umpire, that he called it before the actual shot was played so it becomes not out that way. That's what the umpire told me," Butt told reporters.
"We had a point, we made it to him but that was reply."
Pietersen insisted he'd been distracted by fellow South Africa born batsman Jonathan Trott, the non-striker.
"Trotty walked in from a widish mid-off position. He said he was swatting away flies or bees - there were a lot of them out there today - and he walked in at a brisk pace across the wicket." Pietersen said.
"I thought he was going to walk straight across, so I pulled away. The umpire shouted dead ball, but the ball sort of followed me. Instinctively, I played at it - I probably shouldn't have, and I apologise if I caused any issues."
Butt, contrasting his fortunes with those of Pietersen, said: "Batsmen, it's only a one ball game for us and if you get a good one there's not much we can do. If we are lucky it might pass without edging, sometimes it doesn't carry.
"I think all the luck was with KP today," he added with a smile.