Leicester (second day): Leicestershire 120 (S P Jones 5-30) & 138-4 v Worcestershire 379 (V S Solanki 108, B F Smith 76, G J P Kruger 4-85, M N Malik 4-107)
For so long it seemed as though Worcestershire would have had victory wrapped up by lunch but Leicestershire’s first half-century partnership of the match, between Paul Nixon and James Allenby, did enough to keep alive the home team’s lingering hopes of salvaging something from it.
Their hearty defiance will, barring miracles or weather, prove to be a postponement of the agony.
Worcestershire’s bowling unit, superb in the first innings, has already made a sizeable indent into Leicestershire’s top order for a second time in as many days, leaving them 138 for four and in deficit by 259.
Having resumed play with a lead of 55 runs and eight first-innings wickets in hand, Worcestershire’s collective batting effort extended the advantage by another 204 runs by the time they were dismissed for 379 at the tea interval.
Ben Smith led the way against his old club with 76 (142 balls, seven fours, one six), carrying on the good work of Vikram Solanki who fell in the seventh over of the morning shortly after converting his unbeaten 93 into his second first-class century of the season (108, 165 balls, 15 fours, one six).
He fell to a tidy leg-side catch by Nixon off his old team-mate, Nadeem Malik, but Smith took Worcestershire on with the help of Graeme Hick and all of the middle order reaching double figures.
This was far from spectacular; in fact, at no point did the day’s play come close to matching the pulsating action of Sunday - but a solid performance was all Worcestershire needed. Play today will have to deviate so far from their plan in order for the visitors not to secure their second win of the Division Two championship season.
One suspects some extra net sessions will be the punishment for their Leicestershire counterparts after they proved once more that they could not live with the Ali-Jones-Magoffin triumvirate.
In contrast, the home side bowled decently enough. Malik and Garnett Kruger ended with four wickets apiece, reasonable returns for the ample leg work they put in under what must have been severely demotivating circumstances.
It was a great chance for Worcestershire’s struggling batsmen - of which there are several - to spend time in the middle.
Moeen Ali spent 80 minutes out there but he is so bereft of form that he scored only 14 off 58 balls before watching his off stump cartwheel out of the ground when he decided to leave a Kruger delivery.
While a fatal error of judgment befell the battling Moeen, Steve Davies succumbed to his usual slack dismissal, this time driving on the up to point when 12.
Gareth Andrew scored a championship career-best 33 which, while it was a decent effort off 40 balls and very tidy in parts, surely raises questions about his status as a genuine all-rounder.
He made his first-class debut five years ago and averages 13, fewer than Kabir Ali, Steve Magoffin and only one more than Simon Jones.
It was Worcestershire’s bowling - at least the early part of it yesterday - which once again caught the eye and brought this contest to life.
Kabir struck with his second ball of the innings before Magoffin picked up the prize wicket of Hylton Ackerman, top of the division’s averages before this match, caught by Hick at second slip. Kabir then picked up his fourth leg-before of the innings when he dismissed Matt Boyce.
Jones takes a little longer to get going, resembling a steam engine cranking into motion.
However, once in full flow and bowling at top speed - as he was again briefly during this match - the sheer power of his action is very pleasing on the eye.
He beat Boeta Dipenaar for pace, the South African sending a looping catch to Solanki at gully off the shoulder of the bat to secure his only wicket of the second innings so far.
Nixon (30) and Allenby (46) will be on his route this morning.