A century stand saw Ed Joyce and Luke Wright lead a Sussex fightback at Lord's, as the current leaders of the LV= County Championship Division One battle to avoid a heavy defeat against third-placed Middlesex.
Forced to follow-on by the side who will replace them at the top of the table if they win the game, Sussex finished their second innings on 228-4 on the third day, just 49 runs adrift, after skipper Joyce (75 not out) and all-rounder Wright (48 not out) added an unbroken 105 for the fifth wicket.
Wright had a big let-off on 40, however, when he was badly dropped by Tim Murtagh at deep square leg off Ollie Rayner. At stumps Wright had faced 80 balls and Joyce had resisted for 129 deliveries.
Rayner took 5-63 in Sussex's first innings of 222, in reply to Middlesex's 499-8 declared, but the home side still have the whole of the last day to wrap up a victory that seemed a certainty when James Harris took the key wickets of Mike Yardy and Matt Prior in a brilliant spell either side of tea to leave Sussex on 123-4.
Sussex have performed poorly so far in this important game between the only unbeaten teams in the first division, but at least Wright and Joyce have now shown some spirit - Wright for the second time in the day after his 77 from 119 balls in Sussex's first innings.
Sussex's second innings got off to a bad start with Luke Wells leg-before for nought to the sixth ball of the opening over, from Murtagh, and a second-wicket stand of 67 ended when Chris Nash called Yardy for an ambitious single to short third man and was beaten by Joe Denly's direct hit and run out for 36.
Yardy, after battling to 41, was beaten for pace as he tried to hook a short ball from Harris, and looped up a catch to Chris Rogers at square leg, and the 23-year-old Middlesex paceman was jubilant when Prior aimed a pull at a ball that was not quite short enough for the stroke and mis-hit to mid on where Murtagh dived to his right to take the catch.
Earlier, Sussex resumed at 147-7 in their first innings and, for most of the morning session, put up stout resistance through the eighth-wicket pair of Wright and Will Beer.
With Wright always looking to be positive, and Beer mainly content to defend, they added 88 in 40 overs before Beer was caught behind off Neil Dexter's medium pace for 25 from 141 balls.
From the very next ball, at the start of the following over, Wright hit a rash return catch to Rayner and Sussex were all out on the stroke of lunch when Steve Magoffin was leg-before to Rayner for 10. It was Rayner's first five-wicket haul since joining Middlesex from Sussex two years ago.