Hampshire will need something special on the final day of their clash with Middlesex to have any hope at all of netting their first win of the new Championship campaign.
With the visitors resuming their first innings on 102 for three, they were finally dismissed for 362 in reply to Hampshire’s 413 all out.
With showers forecast on the final day, the task of accelerating the game towards a result already looked unlikely but some stern resistance from the Middlesex batsman ensured there was no clatter of wickets to give Hampshire a sniff of forcing a result.
At times, it was attritional stuff with Middlesex’s Nick Compton plotting his way to a century – his first since he rejoined the county from Somerset as he made his way to 117 from 237 balls.
But on a pitch that didn’t appear to offer too much encouragement to the bowlers, it’s hard to see any other prospect other than the two captains shaking hands on a draw at some point on the final afternoon.
James Franklin (eight) became one of Fidel Edwards’ victims (four for 100) when the West Indies man snared him lbw.
With increasing pace and sharpness, Edwards looks like he is getting to grips with the English conditions.
But Compton then played the dominant role alongside Neil Dexter (14) and John Simpson (36), guiding his side beyond the follow-on figure with apparent ease.
Edwards picked up two quick wickets as he first removed Ollie Rayner (29), thanks to an edge behind to Adam Wheater, before James Vince took a brilliant catch at third slip to end James Harris’ short stay.
After that burst left Middlesex at 270 for eight, there were brief hopes of Hampshire setting a target with the last two wickets and some quick runs on the board.
But those hopes were dashed as the home side failed to finish off the tail once again.
Toby Roland-Jones (61) was the main obstacle with some welcome attacking strokes on his way to a half-century.
At 287 for nine, the Middlesex innings should have been over soon afterwards.
But when England man Steven Finn (18 not out) – a number 11 batsman – is allowed to hang around for that length of time in a last-wicket partnership worth 75 runs, victory hopes tend to dwindle.
Roland-Jones finally fell when Brad Wheal took a catch from Sean Ervine (three for 37) but the celebrations were muted.
Liam Dawson (four not out) survived a big lbw appeal in three tricky overs that Hampshire’s openers had to negotiate as the clock ticked towards 7pm.
But with a slender lead of just 55 runs, it doesn’t look like either side will be toasting a victory at the conclusion of the game.