A late surge of wickets by Worcestershire all-rounder Ed Barnard turned the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship match with Lancashire at Blackfinch New Road on its head.
Lancashire’s Australian paceman Joe Mennie had ripped through the middle order as bottom-placed Worcestershire were bowled out for 247 in 63.5 overs despite a fine century from Daryl Mitchell.
But four wickets in 16 balls by Barnard saw Lancashire nosedive from a comfortable 77-0 to 86-5 by the close.
Mennie finished with 4-43 from 12 overs to justify acting skipper Dane Vilas’ decision to bowl first, with Jordan Clark (4-56) mopping up the lower order.
But then came the Barnard blast as nightwatchman Stephen Parry, Haseeb Hammed, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rob Jones were all dismissed for ducks.
Worcestershire’s plight when batting would have been worse but for the typical endurance and defiance of Mitchell in registering his first Championship century of 2018 He moved into the top 10 of Worcestershire’s all-time century-makers, level on 31 tons with Basil D’Oliveira and Alan Ormrod.
Mitchell also scored a century against Lancashire in the Royal London One-Day Cup on the same ground last month.
He fought a virtual lone hand until being support by Barnard and Ross Whiteley in partially rescuing his side from 81-5 via stands of 66 and 79 for the sixth and seventh wickets.
Debutant opener Martin Guptill was dismissed for only two, edging Graham Onions to Vilas.
But it was Mennie (left) who inflicted the major damage. He clipped the off-bail of Joe Clarke (21) and then struck twice in two balls as acting captain Brett D’Oliveira was lbw for eight and keeper Ben Cox (0) nicked to Vilas. Barnard dug in for 21 before he was bowled by Mennie.
Whiteley was yorked for a quickfire 32 by Clark, who had Charlie Morris and Steve Magoffin caught without scoring before Mitchell skied tocover.
Alex Davies replaced Hameed in the Lancashire opening role and shared an untroubled stand of 77 with Keaton Jennings before he pulled a Morris delivery on 43 and saw Guptill pull off a stunning diving catch at mid wicket.
Parry came in with still eight overs remaining but he failed to trouble the scorers before giving a return catch to Barnard.
His dismissal saw Hameed finally come to the wicket but he offered no shot to Barnard and was bowled for nought.
Chanderpaul (0) then drilled the next delivery from the former England Under-19 player to Pat Brown at point.
Rob Jones survived the hat-trick ball but also fell victim to Barnard, lbw for nought to the final ball of the day.
Lancashire paceman Mennie said: “We started off pretty well with the ball this morning. To have them five wickets down early was very nice.
“We probably went a bit wayward with the ball in the middle session and they got a few more runs than we would have liked but to get them out for 247 was pretty pleasing.
“We let it slip a bit (with the bat). At 70-0 we were going pretty well and to lose five wickets like that was not ideal but, credit to them, they bowled pretty well and Ed Barnard especially.
“We are going to have to fight hard to get ourselves up to a decent score and a competitive score.”