A remarkable unbroken partnership of 115, by far the biggest of the match, between John Carr and John Emburey revitalised Middlesex, the Championship leaders, against Warwickshire. At 90 for 6, their first defeat this summer was a realistic threat in a game of two-an-over torture.
The pitch, a slow turner, has yielded runs so grudgingly that Carr's half-century off 146 balls was something of a jewel in this game's highly tarnished batting crown. His runs, built from a two-eyed stance and from adversity, were worth double compared with more spectacular achievements on more accomodating batting surfaces.
Carr, now 30, foresook the first- class game for a career in banking and played for Hertfordshire before top ambition returned. Yesterday, Middlesex banked on him after their balance sheet showed an ominous 28 for 3 with Warwickshire's liquidators, notably Allan Donald, awaiting.
Under Carr's guidance, Middlesex banished the vague hint of following on. They also narrowed the gap systematically during a dour day on which the ball rarely left the square. This was four-day cricket at its most attritional, with the end doubtless justifying the means.
Paul Booth, making his first Championship appearance of the summer, levitated Warwickshire to 237 all out with 30 not out, an innings to prompt ecstasy in the context of this low scoring match. Phil Tufnell's 4 for 71, together with Emburey's three wickets, increased their combined first-class total to 75 this season, the highest aggregate by a county spin pair.
Booth, slow left arm, plied his own trade with initial success, dismissing Mark Ramprakash with his second ball, caught at slip by Dermot Reeve, who soon appeared at square leg to take Keith Brown off a sorely misjudged sweep to an innocuous ball from Neil Smith.
Donald was playing his penultimate Championship match before joining the South African's training camp for the tour of Sri Lanka. He gave Warwickshire and Middlesex something to remember by yorking Desmond Haynes and Mark Feltham, dismissals sandwiched between drawing Michael Roseberry half forward, leg-before and beaten by pace.
Donald's meagre 21 wickets had previously cost more than 25 runs each, but he has since become an avid video watcher of his own performances to identify the shortfall.
Mike Gatting fell to the off-spinner Neil Smith, now with 26 wickets, and Middlesex looked even more ragged at the edges than Warwickshire had done, though their fielding was sharper.
Middlesex also took full bowling points for the seventh time in 10 matches, yet still seek a batting maximum. It mirrors the pattern of a Championship in which the most relevant result when the darker days of September loom may be Middlesex beating Surrey, their arch-rivals, by four wickets at Lord's last month.