Saeed Ajmal put promotion rivals Hampshire in a spin to boost Worcestershire’s chances of forcing a victory on the final day of their Division Two encounter at New Road.
The Pakistan mystery spinner took his season wicket-tally to 36 with figures of 7-63 as Hampshire were dismissed for 219 in their first-innings and he then picked up Jimmy Adams on the stroke of stumps after the visitors were asked to follow-on.
The wicket of Adams leaves Hampshire tottering on 31-1, trailing by 152, and with Ajmal expected to do the bulk of the bowling on day four, Hampshire face an uphill task to stave off defeat.
Ajmal has been a revelation for Worcestershire, who posted 402-9 declared in their first knock, and his wizardry with the ball helped the hosts open up a significant 183-run advantage.
At 107-1 Hampshire were sitting pretty but Ajmal broke a century stand between Adams (40) and Will Smith (67) before claiming the wicket of Glenn Maxwell (24) to expose the tail, which he swiftly mopped up.
Surrey will also fancy their chances of claiming a much-needed win on Wednesday after opening up a mammoth first-innings lead of 514 heading into the third day against Gloucestershire at Bristol.
Three Surrey batsmen have now registered career-best scores in the match but there was heartache for two of them, Rory Burns, who was dismissed one run short of a maiden double century, and opening partner Zafar Ansari, who departed for a first-class high of 98.
Both Burns and Ansari then had the privilege of watching Vikram Solanki and Jason Roy make hay from the comfort of the pavilion balcony.
Solanki struck a typically-fluent 143 but it was Roy who produced the coup de grace to the weary Gloucestershire attack, smashing a 55-ball century before rain and bad light saw Surrey close on 626-6, Roy unbeaten on 121 from 71 balls and a declaration imminent.
Home Counties rivals Kent and Essex played out a high-scoring draw on the final day at Canterbury.
Both sides are languishing in mid-table with just one win to their names and Kent denied Essex the opportunity to improve their record by reaching 255-8, a second-innings lead of 202, before shaking hands on the final evening.
New Zealand all-rounder Jesse Ryder tried his best with the ball for Essex, claiming 5-56 to end with match figures of 10-100, however 92 from Daniel Bell-Drummond and 47 from Darren Stevens prevented a Kent collapse.
Essex scooped 13 points for the draw and Kent 11 and the two sides will clash again in the NatWest T20 Blast on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports.
A tense finish is in store at Grace Road after Derbyshire all-rounder David Wainwright enjoyed a day to remember with both bat and ball against east midlands rivals Leicestershire.
The former Yorkshire player posted his first century for Derby to help his side into a slender first-innings lead and then claimed 5-54 to leave the match fascinatingly poised.
Leicestershire reached stumps on 200-9 thanks to Niall O’Brien’s knock of 71, giving the Foxes a lead of 175 with tail-enders Anthony Ireland (3no) and Alex Wyatt (11no) at the crease.
Wainwright had earlier moved his overnight score on from 83 to 109 and No 10 batsman Tom Taylor added 40 as Derbyshire reached 336 in their first-innings.