DURHAM made a bright start as they set about replying to Middlesex's 188 all out at Lord's this morning.
Helped by the first uninterrupted session of the match - although the teams did play through some light rain when the hosts were batting - the Riversiders were 35-0 at lunch on day three.
After starting at break-kneck speed they had eased up a bit as Middlesex's new-ball bowlers began bowling tighter lines.
Between them, Tim Murtagh and Steve Finn had conceded five boundaries in the first two overs. Will Smith's nice cover drive to get off the mark was a sign of things to come.
Michael Di Venuto was 18 not out, Smith one behind, in the seven overs before the interval. With only five sessions left in this game - weather permitting - Durham need to build a lead as quickly as possible to give themselves a chance of winning this match, their second of the County Championship season.
It had taken them less than an hour-and-a-half to wrap up Middlesex's innings, claiming full bowling points while denying their hosts any with the bat.
Ben Stokes only bowled three balls all day, and took a wicket with his third. It was somewhat gifted to him, Neil Dexter's loose shot undoing his good work of the previous day to be caught in the slips by Di Venuto for 65.
Even so, the young all-rounder might have felt a little aggrieved to be taken out of the attack the instant he completed an over he was halfway through the previous day. He could have little complaint when his replacement, Graham Onions, finished with deserved figures of 6-45, though.
First it was Callum Thorp's turn to add to his wickets tally. Gareth Berg propped forward and edged straight into the safe hands of Di Venuto.
Hit on the hand before he had a run to his name by one from Onions which reared off a length, Murtagh seemed determined to take it out on the ball. He threw the kitchen sink at the fifth delivery of Onions' next over. It zoomed past substitute fielder Mark Stoneman before he could react at mid-off, crossing the boundary to take Middlesex to 150.
He survived a totally uncontrolled shot to Thorp on 16 in the next over, trying to hit through mid-off but taking a hand off the bat and seeing the ball loop into the huge gap behind mid-on. His luck soon ran out, trying to drive Onions without moving his feet with 18 to his name.
Perhaps John Simpson got his team-mate's share when he top-edged a pull on 21. Phil Mustard sprinted across to the leg-side and dived full length but when he hit the turf, the ball popped out of his grasp.
Toby Roland-Jones was also dropped, although again it was difficult. Dale Benkenstein, the wider of two gullies, threw himself quickly to his left without being able to cling on.
He failed to make the most of his fortune, a daft shot sending the ball high for Ian Blackwell at mid-on to run across and catch.
Two balls later Onions wrapped up the innings, helped by a good catch from Paul Collingwood, going right at first slip, to see off Finn for a second-ball duck. Middlesex had made 188 in 57.4 overs.
Tomorrow's Sunday Sun will have a full report of today's play, as well as round-ups from the opening day of the local cricket season.