Worcestershire's middle and late order held together resolutely yesterday to hand the county what looked a useful 82-run first innings lead on a Wantage Road pitch that showed signs of becoming increasingly inconsistent.
But a similarly redoubtable first-wicket response of 81 from Bilal Shafayat and Martin Love eroded that advantage and the day closed with mounting concerns over the Pears' tardy over-rate and a potential points deduction.
Until then the visitors had been led from the front by a 95 from England Under-19 wicketkeeperbatsman, Steven Davies, and were eventually bowled out for 381 as they look to restart their County Championship promotion charge.
Davies was well supported by 80 from Vikram Solanki and Gareth Batty's 48 as well as welcome 20-somethings from Kabir Ali, Matt Mason and Shoaib Akhtar.
But whatever else happens in this match it is one Davies will remember for many years, having kept wicket to Shoaib at full pelt on the first day and posted the highest firstclass score of his career on the second.
He did not concede any byes in Northamptonshire's first innings of 299 and he handled everything the Rawalpindi Express sent his way with a minimum of fuss.
He even claimed he enjoyed the experience. "I literally could not take the smile off my face, especially when it started reversing," he quipped.
Yesterday theaythe Northamptonshire attack was considerably less hostile but nevertheless the 19-year-old showed good composure. He started the day at 36 not out and picked up runs where he could without ever establishing complete mastery over his opponents.
Instead there were the promising flourishes of a young man who clearly has natural ability by the bucket-load but enough technical deficiencies to prevent him settling fully.
In cool, overcast conditions, he saw off a rather bland opening salvo from Damien Wright and in the process took himself to 49 with an arrow-straight drive that beat mid-on and zipped away to the boundary.
The next ball resulted in a quick single into the covers and Davies had his second half-century in consecutive Championship matches, having posted 59 in the loss to Yorkshire earlier this month.
Once he was past the landmark he hooked Wright over square leg for a six that owed everything to his innate timing.
Northamptonshire spinner Monty Panesar continued to cause the teenager problems and deceived him more than once, although it was seamer Johann Louw who should have made Davies the first wicket of the day when the left-hander hooked once more, this time to the on-rushing Jason Brown who put the chance down.
That was when Davies was on 74 and it may have unnerved him because his progress from there to 95 was painstakingly slow.
The Bromsgrove-born player was eventually bowled by Panesar attempting to turn a sharp-turning delivery round the corner, only to end up being yorked.
"I got a 50 in the last game and was a bit disappointed not to go on and get a hundred then - it's the same again here," said Davies.
A touch of the nervous nineties perhaps? Apparently not. "I didn't really think about," Davies said. "I'm not a panicky sort in that respect. It was just disappointing not to turn it into a century.
"It was getting quite difficult it was seaming a bit and starting to turn when I got out. One would go and then the next wouldn't."
Which explains why the middle session was so turgid. The run-rate was at barely three an over as Panesar, Louw, and to some extent the mediumfast efforts of Wright, contained the Pears' efforts with the bat.
Solanki's watchful knock maintained what little momentum there was before he edged a riser from Louw to David Sales at first slip to leave his side 289 for six.
The Worcestershire skipper was supported by Gareth Batty, who looked comfortable until he looped a half-volley on leg stump to Louw at square leg with the score on 323.
Ray Price came and went without registering his presence but a rollicking last-wicket stand of 45 between Mason and Shoaib both brightened a drab afternoon and padded out Worcestershire's advantage.
Unfortunately neither man was able to be as effective with the ball as the home team closed on 81 for one, just one run behind.