New Road (first day): Gloucestershire 411-6 (C G Taylor 137, S D Snell 127 no, M A Hardinges 66 no) v Worcestershire
A remarkable show of resilience amid the most perilous of situations from centurymakers Chris Taylor and Stephen Snell had put Gloucestershire in a commanding position by the close of play against Worcestershire.
Five wickets in the first session and only one in the next two goes some way to summing up the order of events. Simon Jones and Steve Magoffin raced through the visitors' top order before the highest sixth-wicket partnership in a match featuring these two sides helped them wrestle back the advantage from what had seemed insuperable odds after 22 overs.
Not only that, the way in which Worcestershire's aimless bowling was being carted to all parts of the ground by the time the last ten overs came around was quite incomprehensible given what had happened in the opening exchanges.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, a Gloucestershire side without Jon Lewis, their captain and best bowler, were reduced to 85 for five.
At that stage, facing a rampant Jones and an ever-reliable Magoffin, it seemed reaching the fourth day would have been an achievement. But in the diminutive Taylor (137, 179 balls, 17 fours, four sixes) and wicketkeeper-batsman Snell, who is unbeaten on 127 (234 balls, 19 fours), Worcestershire met a middle order of some mettle.
How desperately Gloucestershire needed their vital contributions on what was clearly a batting-friendly pitch with a short boundary to boot. They put on 222 during their show of defiance before Taylor fell to Gareth Batty in the 75th over, which was not before the bats-man's slick footwork and cute shot selection - a blend of power and placement - had helped him to inflict considerable misery on the spin-ner's figures.
The momentum did not let up in the absence of Taylor. In the final session No 8 Mark Hard-ings added an unbeaten 66 from 64 balls, an innings that metaphorically kicked Worcester-shire when they were down.
For Gloucestershire to end on 411 for six after succumbing so meekly early on was quite disorientating; Worcestershire will not come
closer to winning this match, without actually do so, than they were after 90 minutes of play before lunch. Now, a home victory looks miles
away. How they could have done with Kabir Ali to galvanise such a forlorn-looking attack when the going got tough.
Such loosening of the noose around Glouces-tershire's collective necks would probably not have occurred had he managed to overcome the hamstring strain that has hamstrung his ability to play cricket in the past 10 days.
There was no room for any of the other Alis, either. Kadeer, still sidelined with a wretched broken finger, was not selected for Gloucestershire while his brother, Worcestershire's Moeen, gave way to the greatness that is Graeme Hick despite a form-finding 92 against Loughborough University last week.
Despite the fitness of Hick, an in-form side and an ever-improving Jones, Worcestershire's day ended in discontent as Snell scored his maiden first-class century and remained un-beaten, a state which casts an even darker cloud over what is meant to be grey skies hovering above New Road today.
His century was well-deserved. On this evidence the wicketkeeper, who has displaced Steven Rhodes's former understudy Stephen Adshead on merit, will be a fixture for some time to come.
But Worcestershire's day was all about missed chances.
Jones struck with only his second ball of the day in the second over, having Grant Hodnett caught at gully by Batty. The Welshman's early spell was encouraging. He had New Zealander Craig Spearman caught at short leg by Stephen Moore in his second over, beating the opener for pace as he tried to guide a sharp rising ball downwards.
But Jones rarely looked threatening after that. There are signs that his unplayable form of 2005 is on the cusp of returning - but only in flashes; at this stage of his comeback they are more subtle hints than the striking, neon illu-minations needed to entice England's selectors away from their current crop of favourites.
Hamish Marshall, Gloucestershire's danger man, was picked up by Gareth Andrew, caught behind by Steven Davies, before Magoffin wrestled in on the action from the New Road end, uprooting the off stump of Marcus North before having Alex Gidman, captain for the day, caught behind with one which kept quite low.
That is where Worcestershire's luck ran out and the tide began to change.
Batty got a pummeling at the hands of Taylor. facing at the Diglis end. He would slog sweep him to the short leg boundary to make a statement of intent.