Sean Ervine performed a vital rescue mission with a fabulous century for Hampshire as they put themselves in with a great chance of victory at Warwickshire.
The popular Zimbabwean all-rounder struck a near flawless 102 – the 17th first-class century of his career – to steer his side out of trouble and then crank up the pressure on the home side.
The visitors were in serious trouble at 108 for five in their second innings when the 32-year-old arrived at the crease.
But after a productive partnership with Michael Carberry (81), Ervine then hit 14 fours and one six in his 144-ball knock to put his side back on top.
Importantly, he batted brilliantly with the lower order as Gareth Berg (36) and Danny Briggs (33) then added vital runs as Hampshire were dismissed for 339 to set Warwickshire a testing victory target of 379.
The home side reached 47 without loss in their 11-over spell before stumps, but face a sizeable task on the final day of an enthralling tussle when all results are still possible.
On a pitch which is flattening out, wickets have fallen in flurries at times but it will still need a big effort from the Hampshire bowlers.
In the morning, the home side were well on top after Hampshire’s slump
Rikki Clarke removed Liam Dawson (27) and James Vince (nought) with successive balls and Jeetan Patel had Will Smith (eight) stumped and Adam Wheater (11) brilliantly caught at slip by Clarke off an inside-edged reverse-sweep.
Carberry held things together with 10 fours and one six from 193 balls and then found an equally resilient partner in Ervine.
Batting positively against Patel, they each hit the New Zealander for six and added 86 in 29 overs before Carberry played on to Clarke.
Ervine continued to play with power and purpose alonsgide Berg, adding 60 runs before the former Middlesex man sliced Keith Barker’s first ball to tea to Will Porterfield at gully.
Briggs added a breezy 33 to his first-innings 48 before skying Chris Wright to mid-off in his partnership of 61 with Ervine.
The centurion perished to the next ball to a fine tumbling catch by Tim Ambrose, but even then Hampshire’s last pair Andre Adams and James Tomlinson added 24 runs – a frustrating little stand for Warwickshire which might just have lifted the target out of their reach.
Warwickshire’s openers then weathered a testing burst from Tomlinson to survive intact and trimmed the target for the final day’s play.
Ian Westwood was particularly positive as he reached 39 not out in 37-balls and his side need another 332 runs to claim the win.