Relegated Worcestershire have become all too used to being on the wrong end of too many top-flight batsmen in this year's County Championship.

When title-chasing Sussex reached 155 without loss shortly after lunch at Hove yesterday, with Richard Montgomerie and Chris Nash well set, the visitors had good cause to expect to be on the wrong end of another run mountain.

The day's play was preceded by the familiar sight of a Worcestershire captain losing the toss, stand-in skipper Gareth Batty's wrong call meaning that the fate of that all-important flipped coin has crucially gone in their favour only three times in this season's 14 matches.

So for Sussex to have closed on only 287 for four not only gives their main rivals, leaders Lancashire, hope that this match may prove more of a contest than many had bargained for, it also served as a reward for Worcester's young, inexperienced attack.

It needs another good effort this morning for further inroads to be made and for a base for Graeme Hick and company to build on. But in a week when three pace bowlers have been let go at New Road and another new one, Somerset's Gareth Andrew, lined up for next season, the ones that remain showed their coach Steve Rhodes that he does have something to work with.

The day was dominated by Montgomerie (82) and Nash (a career-best 89) as, despite tricky overcast conditions which ought to have helped the visiting attack, their stand was run up in 40 overs.

It was the hosts' biggest first-wicket part-nership in four years, beating the 121 by Montgomerie and Murray Goodwin, also against West Midland opposition Warwick-shire, at Hove in August 2003. The consistent Montgomerie was within reach of a third century of the season when caught behind by Steven Davies in the seventh over after lunch, driving at one outside off stump. Montgomerie had struck 14 fours in his 130-ball vigil.

Mike Yardy helped Nash add 52 in 17 overs before Nash, who has passed 50 seven times and never been able to convert any of those innings into a century, departed 11 short of the three-figure goal.

The 24-year-old right-hander had looked in good form during his stay of three hours and 40 minutes, hitting 14 fours, as well as the first six of the match when he lifted Kabir Ali over square leg.

But Kabir had his revenge with a swinging delivery that found the edge and Davies, passed over this week by the England selectors who have preferred Durham's Phil Mustard as replacement for injured Matt Prior in the one-day series in Sri Lanka, held another straightforward catch.

Yardy, returning after illness, reached his half-century off 92 balls with eight fours. But, on 52, he provided the ecomomical Daryl Mitchell, the pick of the Worcester attack, with only his third Championship wicket when he pulled him to square leg.

Carl Hopkinson scored his maiden century in any form of cricket in the Pro40 last Sunday but he soon drilled one low to Batty at mid on to give the expensive Richard Jones only his second Championship wicket.

Home captain Chris Adams, feeling the discomfort of a finger injury which required five stitches last weekend, had batted for 27 overs before striking his first boundary, a cut.