The weather might have been Mediterranean, but crucially the pitch was almost subterranean in bounce, and uneven with it, which put a premium on the twin virtues of patience and playing straight. Derbyshire are not over-blessed with these qualities at the best of times. Now, having hit a deep trough of form, they are also desperately short of confidence and, like all sides down on their luck, quickly discovered that every lapse in judgement costs them dearly.
Thus, after winning what should have been a valuable toss, they were swiftly reduced to 64 for 7 by a series of grotesque errors and there must have been some doubt whether Phil DeFreitas, flying north to the rescue in the manner of Biggles long ago, was going to make it in time.
Happily for his side he arrived in time to make the day's second major statement at No10 and batted with no little aplomb to make an unbeaten 49 from 50 balls. It was by some way his highest championship score of the season. Does it take being omitted from the England side to galvanise his batting?
With Kim Barnett and Devon Malcolm he was responsible for adding a priceless 84 for the last two wickets. Some Durham close fielders, though not the bowler, Alan Walker, thought Barnett had been caught at the wicket off a very faint edge when he had scored only six; by the time he went after a very wide one he had started to look something like his real self.
DeFreitas, having just avoided the field with one or two loose and lofty early strokes, as is his wont, began to look very menacing indeed and Durham would have been highly relieved when Malcolm, backing up too enthusiastically, was run out by Mike Roseberry's direct hit at a time when their earlier tidy bowling and out cricket looked like being squandered.
As often happens, Durham also succumbed early on to a mixture of over- ambition and limited footwork. Roseberry, seizing on what looked like an inviting wide half-volley from Malcolm, was well held at cover and Jon Longley paid the price on this pitch - lbw - for getting only half forward to DeFreitas.
John Morris and Stewart Hutton restored order until Frank Griffith, on his first championship appearance of the summer, prised out Hutton, Manoj Prabhakar and Phil Bainbridge in the space of seven deliveries.
He almost persuaded Morris to play on, too, at 29. But Morris went past 50 in 88 balls and with Shaun Birbeck gradually nudged Durham back into contention.