Lancashire will start a tense final day in trouble on 28 for three in their potential relegation decider against Warwickshire in the Specsavers County Championship.
Both sides know that defeat would, if Hampshire beat Durham at The Ageas Bowl, send them down to Division Two.
A second-innings collapse from the south coast side left that result in the balance, and Lancashire in particular were left hoping from assistance from Paul Collingwood’s men after Warwickshire’s second innings of 279 for seven at Edgbaston.
That left Lancashire needing to score 347 to win or bat out the final day for a draw which would ensure their survival.
Ian Bell’s declaration after tea, though, left them with an awkward 18 overs batting on the third evening and the visitors lost Rob Jones, Luke Procter and Karl Brown. Without a dogged rearguard action, or some assistance from Durham, a Lancashire season which started so strongly could well culminate in the drop.
Warwickshire resumed on the third morning on 12 without loss and soon lost Alex Mellor, lbw to Tom Bailey, but he proved the only batsman not to reach 20.
Ian Westwood and Jonathan Trott added 61 in 14 overs before Westwood (34) fell lbw to Jordan Clark’s fourth ball of the day.
Trott (42) played on to spinner Arron Lilley just before lunch but the clatter of wickets which Lancashire needed was prevented by Bell and Sam Hain, who added 38.
And after Bell (31) played on to become Kyle Jarvis’s 50th championship victim of the season and Hain was lbw to Lilley for a quick 30, further small but significant partnerships were lodged.
Tim Ambrose made 59 not out and added 44 with Rikki Clarke (20), 38 with Keith Barker (23) and an unbroken 45 with Jeetan Patel, who twice cleared the ropes on the way to an unbeaten 23.
Lancashire’s pursuit of 347 started badly when Barker’s seventh ball removed Jones courtesy of the 13th lbw dismissal of the match.
The 14th followed when Procter offered no shot to Patel and when Brown edged Chris Wright to wicketkeeper Ambrose, the roots of the Red Rose top order had been plucked out.
They will look to 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed, who closed on 11 from 49 balls, to play the lead role.
Hameed has been nominated for the Professional Cricketers Association’s young player of the year