Steven Crook's maiden first-class ton frustrated Middlesex on day three of their LV= County Championship fixture against Northamptonshire at Lord's.
Crook made a brilliant counter-attacking 131 from just 124 balls - featuring 23 fours - to bring the visitors back into the match and leave Middlesex with a mountain to climb in order to force a victory on the final day.
The hosts finished the day 30/1 with a healthy lead of 134 after finally bowling Northants out for 384 in the evening session.
But the title chasers will know that they let their relegation embattled opponents off the hook at 168/6, when former Middlesex seamer Crook joined Andrew Hall at the crease.
Together they built a fabulous 144-run partnership on a good pitch and in brilliant afternoon sunshine, with Hall making 75, as Middlesex began to see their hopes of victory shrink.
Angus Fraser's men lost captain Chris Rogers in the evening, and will press for quick runs tomorrow before unleashing their attack in a desperate bid to keep their championship hopes on track.