Luke Procter and Glen Chapple both claimed four wickets but Lancashire’s task of avoiding relegation from the LV= County Championship suffered following late resistance from Middlesex at Emirates Old Trafford.
The efforts of Procter and Chapple in cloudy conditions were notable but a last-wicket stand of 34 between Middlesex’s James Harris and Ravi Patel gained a batting bonus point for their side, who were all out for 214 on the opening day of their Division One clash.
Lancashire need to make up a 19-point deficit if they are to overtake Middlesex at the bottom of the table, a task made all the harder by that last-wicket partnership.
Middlesex’s total means that Lancashire need to score around 350 in their first innings and then win the game if they are to avoid being demoted to Division Two.
Fortunately for the home side, bad light and rain prevented Middlesex’s bowlers from having any chance to exploit the bowler-friendly conditions on a day when 25 overs were lost to the weather.
In the morning session the visitors progressed to 86 for three off 30 overs as Lancashire’s four seamers maintained a tight line.
The out of touch Sam Robson was the first to go having accumulated just seven when he edged Chapple to Jos Buttler in the seventh over of the day.
Dawid Malan followed the opener back to the dressing room nine overs later when he nicked Procter to second slip Steven Croft.
Captain Chris Rogers also found it tough going against the Red Rose attack and the Middlesex skipper was unable to follow up his match-saving double hundred at Taunton with another big score.
Instead, he was bowled for 33 by a good ball from Procter, although by that time he had been dropped by both Buttler and Croft.
The visitors reached the break with honours even, Joe Denly having faced 52 balls for his unbeaten 27.
After lunch Denly and Eoin Morgan added 19 runs in a shade more than eight overs before Denly was well caught by Croft at second slip off Chapple for a 74-ball 38.
Morgan and Neil Dexter then defended stoutly for half an hour as the clouds gathered but Lancashire’s bowlers eventually gained further rewards for their accuracy.
Tom Bailey removed Morgan, caught behind for 25, and Procter took the wickets of Dexter and Toby Roland-Jones in successive overs to leave the visitors on 134 for seven when the umpires took the players off for bad light.
An early tea was taken but the break in play seemed only to strengthen the resolve of Middlesex’s lower order batsmen.
John Simpson and Harris (27no) put on 36 for the eighth wicket and Lancashire were left to regret dropping the latter at slip when he had made only four, Paul Horton being the offending fielder.
Chapple eventually had Simpson lbw for 23 before Tim Murtagh was caught behind for nine, with the Lancashire captain finishing the innings with four for 55 and Procter taking four for 50.
Seven Middlesex batsmen reached double figures but no one made more than Denly’s 38 in an innings which did not even feature a fifty partnership.
“I think it was a very good day for us,” said Lancashire vice-captain Paul Horton.
“To bowl a side out after you lose the toss is good although it was little bit frustrating that they got beyond 200 because we need to take three more bonus points than Middlesex from this game as well as winning the match.
“Now we need to get 350.”