Michael Lumb's unbeaten 115 helped Nottinghamshire close day three on 204-3 in reply to Derbyshire's total of 391 at Trent Bridge.
Left-hander Lumb's third century of the summer came from just 120 deliveries after he had come to the crease to replace the injured Rikki Wessels with the score on 19.
Ed Cowan, playing his final match for Nottinghamshire before reporting for Ashes duty with Australia, hit three consecutive boundaries off Tim Groenewald before the seamer had instant revenge.
Having coasted to 24, the left-handed opener edged a delivery from around the wicket to provide Chesney Hughes with a catch in the slips.
After a stoppage of more than two hours Lumb took centre-stage, combining with James Taylor in a second-wicket stand worth 121.
Taylor went for 40 when he chopped on to become Groenewald's 200th first-class scalp, while Mark Footitt returned to the attack to nip out Samit Patel before the close.
However Derbyshire could find no way to dismiss Lumb and with only a day to go, it will take some negotiations between the two captains to open up the chance for a positive result.
Derbyshire had started the day at the crease and their final four wickets added 85 runs before they were eventually bowled out.
Richard Johnson (22), David Wainwright (22), Mark Turner (23 not out) and Footitt (24) all made useful contributions while Andre Adams - with 4-69 - was the pick of the Notts attack.