Second day: Warwickshire trail Durham by 69 runs with eight second-innings wickets in hand
A day that had promised so much for Warwickshire ended in disappointment as Durham seized the initiative.
Forthright batting from the visitors and a disappointing performance in the field mean that Warwickshire face a fight to take this game into a fourth day. Defeat would leave them in the bottom four of the Championship table.
Warwickshire will resume this morning trailing by 69. The dismissal of Ian Bell minutes before stumps was a body blow to their hopes, but all is not lost. This pitch is not nearly as poor as their first innings score suggests, and there is much batting to come.
Nobody doubts the ability of this batting line-up, but they have failed to fire as a unit this season. Now is the time for them to deliver. A second innings total in excess of 400 could yet produce an interesting finish.
Though Warwickshire began the day hoping for a first-innings lead, it took until after tea to finish off Durham. By that time the visitors had accumulated a first-innings lead of 151 and picked up four bonus points.
From the depths of 62 for five Warwickshire can only reflect that they let Durham off the hook. They didn't bowl badly, but they did lack the penetration to finish the innings off and were punished for some dropped catches.
Any lingering qualms about the pitch were quelled as Durham's last five wickets added 297. Dale Benkenstein (227 balls, 14 fours and a six) was the common denominator throughout the lower-order resistance, recording the 22nd century of his first-class career and putting the batsmen's struggles of the previous day into perspective.
His chanceless innings, lasting a fraction under six hours, provided the foundations for his partners' more attacking efforts, and showed up the limitations of the home attack.
Warwickshire haemorrhaged runs alarmingly quickly in the morning. Phil Mustard and Benkenstein, clearly intent on a positive approach, added 51 in the first ten overs of the day, taking the attack to the bowlers, and punishing a surplus of short balls.
Mustard, pulling cleanly and thumping one straight six off Lee Daggett, finally drove to mid off, but Otis Gibson joined his captain and put on 148  the highest seventh-wicket stand in Durham's first-class history  to seize the momentum.
Gibson (150 balls, nine fours and a six) has enjoyed an excellent match. With bat and ball he has helped turn the game, and his ability to plant his front foot down the pitch and drive ferociously illustrated Warwickshire's need for a fast bowler.
Perhpas Warwickshire went on the defensive too quickly. And perhaps they were too slow to bring the likes of Bell and Jim Troughton into the attack.
Several times Gibson edged Loudon just wide of the slip, while it took Troughton just six balls to end the partnership when he found the outside edge of Gibson's bat.
Bell also struck quickly, producing a perfect yorker for Callum Thorp but still Warwickshire's work was not done.
Graham Onions joined Benkenstein and helped add 78 in 18 overs  a Durham record for the ninth-wicket against Warwickshire  as Warwickshire's fielding became increasingly ragged.
Onion's previous highest first-class score was just 22, yet he batted with dispiriting confidence. Enjoying the easy nature of a pitch that holds few fears for all-rounders, he carved six boundaries and looks a very handy cricketer.
Not for the first time this season, Warwickshire paid the penalty for a failure to cling on to their chances. Nick Knight and Jonathan Trott reprieved Mustard (on 27) and Gibson (on 41) off Jimmy Anyon and Alex Loudon respectively.
Loudon experienced a mixed day. Delight with his call-up to the England one-day squad must be tempered by concerns over his form. He bowled better as his day progressed, but still dropped short too often and was cut more than will please him.
He will depart with the best wishes of all Warwickshire supporters. Yet also with some concerns. Since his five-wicket haul against Hampshire, Loudon has bowled 82 overs in all cricket and taken one-wicket for 279. It is to be hoped that elevation to the international team doesn't stall his development as it appeared to with the likes of Jim Troughton and Mark Lathwell.
At his best Loudon would appear to be an ideal one-day player. Capable of contributing with bat and ball, he is also a fine fielder. He believes that batting remains his stronger suit, but will know that his ability to bowl the 'doosra' has been a major attraction to the England selectors.
"In International cricket, spinners are targeted [by batsmen], so the least predictable ball is also often the best," he said last night. "But if you can only bowl the 'doosra', you won't go far as an off-spinner.
"I have spoken a fair bit to Ashley Giles and exposure to Twenty20 cricket has been beneficial. I'm very much looking forward to it."
Though Warwickshire soon lost Mark Wagh, back when he should have been forward, in their second innings, their position might have been much worse this morning. Knight was dropped twice in the slips, on 15 and 21, while Bell was missed at short mid wicket on just four. Onions was the unlucky bowler on all three occasions.
Bell couldn't take advantage, however, and was caught at cover as he mistimed a drive at one that seemed to hold-up off the pitch. The bowler? The irrepressible Gibson, of course.