Defending champions Durham will be confident of their first four-day win of the season after setting fellow strugglers Lancashire a victory target of 340 at Chester-le-Street.
That is 15 more than Lancashire have scored in any previous innings this season and they are already in a spot of bother after being reduced to 41 for two at the close of day three, still needing another 299 to win.
Lancashire’s run chase got off to a bad start when Chris Rushworth had Paul Horton lbw with the sixth ball and the 27-year-old seamer, who always looked dangerous, then pinned Alex Davies in front with the first ball of the day’s final over.
It might have been even better for the hosts but they were unable to apply pressure from both ends as John Hastings bowled six no-balls and conceded 22 in his opening three overs.
His fellow Australian Usman Khawaja clipped him off his toes for four but otherwise was happy to survive, remaining unbeaten on 10.
Earlier in the day, despite five wickets for Tom Smith, the visitors were unable to capitalise fully on helpful conditions and were defied by an excellent innings of 92 from Scott Borthwick.
There were also valuable contributions from Paul Collingwood (47) and Hastings (40) as Durham recovered from 62 for four to reach 267.
After resuming on 16 without loss, 88 ahead, Durham were soon in trouble as a ball from Kyle Hogg left Mark Stoneman sharply off the pitch and the edge was brilliantly caught one-handed low to his right by Horton at first slip.
A similar ball from Glen Chapple had Keaton Jennings caught at second slip by Ashwell Prince then Smith struck twice in his third over.
He nipped one in to have Michael Richardson lbw and two balls later Ben Stokes shaped to turn a ball wide of leg stump to mid-wicket and got a leading edge straight back to the bowler.
Borthwick mixed watchful defence with crisp drives and cuts to reach 45 out of 96 for four at lunch. He became increasingly fluent afterwards, hitting eight fours in his 92-ball half-century, but holed out off the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan.
Chapple bowled a lengthy spell after lunch but when Smith returned he had Gordon Muchall caught behind for 15 then pinned Phil Mustard lbw four balls later.
He completed his five-wicket haul when Collingwood tried to run him to third man and steered the ball straight to Prince at second slip. Hogg took the last two wickets with the new ball.
Batting was a perilous occupation in the morning with the ball nipping around under heavy cloud, but when runs started to flow after lunch Lancashire resorted to bowling short.
Smith’s eight-wicket match haul was bettered by Kyle Hogg with nine and they took most of them by seeking movement from a fullish length.
Chapple tried to bounce out Muchall and when Smith briefly went round the wicket and tried something similar against the burly Hastings he was violently clobbered to the mid-wicket boundary.
After winning one cap each, there may be some rivalry between Borthwick and Kerrigan to get back into the England reckoning, but after pulling the left-arm spinner’s first ball of the day for six Borthwick got a little carried away.
He gave Kerrigan his only wicket of the match when he went down the pitch and tried to clear long on, only to miscue to deep mid-wicket.
Stokes, the other player hoping for a Test recall, did not enhance his prospects with a second ball duck. After watching the first two days, national selector James Whitaker was not present to see it.