The hosts need another 203 to win, so Durham remain favourites to record their first championship victory of the summer and move off the bottom of the table. However, an unpromising weather forecast might yet deprive either team.
With a lead of 226, Durham began the third day from a position of strength, despite failing to enforce the follow-on the previous afternoon and then losing their first six second-innings wickets for just 99. Three of those fell to the slow left arm of Michael Davies for only seven runs in five overs.
The Durham captain, David Boon, did not last long, fending off a lifter from Paul Taylor straight to short leg. But Paul Collingwood, resuming on 28, and Neil Killeen then added 87 for the eighth wicket to press home their advantage. Collingwood, who reached his fifty with a lofted on-drive off Davies, finally fell for 72, after Matthew Hayden had belatedly turned to Tony Penberthy. With the final ball of his second over of the spell, Penberthy induced Collingwood to follow a wide one and the wicketkeeper David Ripley did the rest.
In Penberthy's next over a slower ball deceived Killeen, who had added 45 to his career-best bowling figures of 6 for 20 then, two balls after lunch, in Penberthy's third over, a wild swish by Stephen Harmison left Northamptonshire chasing 344 for victory.
They set about the Durham bowling in positive fashion, with Hayden leading from the front. Three boundaries in four balls off Simon Brown and a hooked six off Harmison followed, but the experienced Brown took his revenge with a ball that swung late.
Not long afterwards, Mal Loye went the same way as his captain, trying to cut one that was too close to his body, and Rob Bailey was pinned leg before in John Woods' first over. By tea, David Sales and Russell Warren had staged a recovery which continued in the abbreviated evening session and much will depend on these two.Reuse content