New Road (day three): Gloucestershire 444 (C G Taylor 137, S D Snell 127, M A Hardinges 82, S P Jones 5-92) v Worcestershire 189-9 (G A Hick 60)
Worcestershire will have to bat much better on the final day.
Either that, or they will hope the weather that has denied them their fair share of points thus far in Division Two of the championship will come to their aid after they ended day three nine wickets down and 106 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
How the home side find themselves in such a predicament is still hard to fathom given the commanding position they were in after an hour’s play on the first morning - but they are now in an awful mess.
On the evidence of day three, Gloucestershire will have nothing to worry about apart from Graeme Hick, who was very good until he gifted the visitors his wicket on 60.
Given the lack of cricket that has been played in this game - only 60 overs spanning days two and three - the shift in the balance of power has been as swift as it has remarkable.
Gloucestershire, bottom of the division, were out of sight after the opening new ball barrage from Simon Jones and Steve Magoffin but some sterling work from their middle order gave their first innings efforts a degree of respectability.
The Pears showed no such backbone and having a decent target to defend clearly buoyed the visitors’ bowlers.
Worcestershire’s Steve Magoffin had shown that some sharp bounce could be achieved from the Diglis End.
The same threat existed when play finally got underway on Friday at 2.40pm as opener Daryl Mitchell will testify.
He was forced to retire hurt and taken to hospital after taking one on the elbow. X-rays revealed only bad bruising and the batsman was able to resume his innings at No 11.
It says much about Worcestershire’s insipid batting that he was called on to do so roughly 40 overs after he had painfully left the field.
In the absence of Mitchell, Rudge wasted no time in picking up captain Vikram Solanki with a full ball which the captain edged into the safe hands of third slip.
Unlike Solanki, plenty of Worcestershire batsmen got starts, which makes the collapse even more disappointing.
Stephen Moore, who has quickly found his stride in this competition this season, edged one to Stephen Snell off Mark Hardinges for 16 and Ben Smith had looked in fine touch until a loose drive looped to Chris Taylor at cover point to end his involvement on 16.
It seemed as though Hick (62 balls, eight fours, two sixes) would be the saviour. He cruised to the 157th first-class half-century of his career from 52 balls.
The recovery looked in the safest hands. Such was the ease with which Hick was scoring the only thing that looked likely to dislodge the veteran was himself - or the odd shooting delivery.
It was the former.
His lovely innings came to such an unseemly end when he clipped Alex Gidman to short mid-wicket off what was no more than a loosener from the visitors’ stand-in skipper.
In the absence of usual captain Jon Lewis, out with a groin strain, Gloucestershire possess a trio of the medium fast seamers that Hick has feasted on throughout his career.
Unfortunately for Worcestershire they proved more than a match for the rest of the top order and, courtesy of some careless batting, got through to the tail with worrying ease.
Mark Hardinges picked up Gareth Batty leg before and Steven Davies’s combative display ended when he dragged one on from the same bowler.
Good catches got rid of Gareth Andrew and Richard Jones, at first slip and square leg and point respectively, but by that stage the Worcestershire spine had been broken.
The follow-on target of 295 was a distant dream and apart from a late flurry of cover drive from Magoffin, nicely timed they were too, there was nothing much to cheer.
For Worcestershire, everyone but Hick has to be much better.