Somerset are closing in on a crucial victory in their fight for Specsavers County Championship Division One survival, ending Lancashire’s dwindling title hopes in the process.
Having enforced the follow-on on day two, Somerset were initially thwarted by Lancashire as Alex Davies (49) and Haseeb Hameed put on 82 for the first wicket.
Hameed (62) then shared a partnership of 62 with Liam Livingstone (57) before the Somerset spinners began to make inroads.
Jack Leach (4-79), having removed Davies, accounted for Hameed, Livingstone and Ryan McLaren (15) while off-spinner Dominic Bess (3-85) got rid of Steven Croft (5), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (9) and Stephen Parry (12).
Lancashire were 247-8, a lead of 45, at stumps and only the most improbable of wins would prevent Essex being crowned champions on Friday.
Somerset, meanwhile, could move out of the relegation zone with a win and reigning champions Middlesex could replace them as their heavily rain-affected game with Hampshire heads towards a draw.
After only 30 overs were completed in the first two days, rain again held up proceedings on day three at Uxbridge and when the players were able to get out onto the field, the Hampshire bowlers took control.
Fidel Edwards (3-63) added a wicket to the two he claimed on day two before Ian Holland (2-32) and Kyle Abbott (2-19) each chipped in with two to leave Middlesex 162-7 at the close and battling to claim a batting bonus point.
Yorkshire, champions in 2014 and 2015, also appear likely to find themselves in a relegation battle for the final two games of the season after they were asked to follow-on despite making 394 in their first innings against Surrey.
After losing Shaun Marsh (78) early in the day, Alex Lees (46) and Andrew Hodd (57) helped bolstered the Yorkshire total but was still 198 short of Surrey’s mammoth 592 at The Oval.
With the follow-on enforced, Yorkshire reached 59-1 – Sam Curran trapping Tom Kohler-Cadmore (12) lbw for the only second innings wicket thus far – by stumps, still trailing by 139 runs and facing a battle to salvage a draw.
In Division Two, Worcestershire will hope to strengthen their grip on the second promotion spot by wrapping up a victory over Leicestershire on Friday.
Resuming on 270-4, Worcestershire were able to reach 493 and gain a first-innings lead of 89 thanks to runs from Ben Cox (77) and Ravichandran Ashwin (44), that despite the best efforts of Callum Parkinson, who took 8-148.
Leicestershire made a nightmare start to their second innings and found themselves 10-4 as Joe Leach (2-27) and Josh Tongue (2-11) blew the top order away.
First innings centurion Neil Dexter (48) managed to at least slow Worcestershire’s momentum but he was one of two wickets for Ashwin (2-36) as Leicestershire ended the day 111-7, leading by just 22.
Northamptonshire face a tricky final day chase, needing a further 176 with nine wickets remaining to beat Glamorgan and keep up the pressure on the top two.
Chris Cooke (69) and Kiran Carlson (44) played a key role in helping Glamorgan wrack up 320 in their second innings, Craig Meschede (34) and Marchant de Lange (39) also making handy contributions.
Needing 218 to win, Northants lost Ben Duckett (23) just before the close, meaning Rob Newton (15no) and night-watchman Simon Kerrigan (0no) will resume the chase with the score on 42-1.
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Elsewhere, Derbyshire will try and force through just their second Championship win of the season on day four against Sussex.
Stuart Whittingham took 5-80 for Sussex at Hove but half-centuries from Harry Podmore (66no), Harvey Hosein (52) and Matt Critchley (51) enabled Sussex to advance to 322-8 at stumps.
That puts Derbyshire 389 ahead and their hopes of taking all 10 wickets once Sussex begin their second innings will be helped by the fact that their hosts need a win to keep their fading promotion hopes alive and will be obliged to chase what total they are set.
Gloucestershire and Kent‘s game at Bristol is heading for a draw after four Kent batsmen passed fifty to give them a one-run first innings lead on day three.
Daniel Bell-Drummond (58), Joe Denly (57), Sam Northeast (66) and Darren Stevens (65no) all made half-centuries as Kent posted 386, Josh Shaw taking 5-118 for Gloucestershire.
Gloucestershire will begin day four on 67-0 with Cameron Bancroft (25no) and Chris Dent (41no) at the crease.