Lancashire's title prospects suffered a jolt here as Worcestershire demonstrated a determination to preserve their First Division status. The Championship aspirants will need to fight for every point.
With the ball swinging, particularly in the morning, and the pitch shaping up as one that will play slower and lower, conditions were not straightforward, but Lancashire looked anything but contenders as they were reduced to 85 for 8 even before lunch.
A bold counter-attack in which Saj Mahmood and Kyle Hogg took turns to pepper the short boundary on the new pavilion side spared their blushes but Lancashire's all-out total of 161 again exposed the Achilles' heel in Glen Chapple's team, namely that they lack batsmen to deliver high scores consistently.
Lancashire have been bowled out for less than 200 in six of their last 11 innings and do not have a batsman averaging above 34.04 for the current season. Rivals Durham, by contrast, have eight who average above that figure and have registered seven totals of above 400 compared with three by Lancashire.
There was no pretending that this was not a pretty feeble effort here after Chapple had won the toss and decided to make first use of the track. Jack Birkenshaw, the duty pitch liaison officer, scrutinised it carefully for clues as to why 16 wickets fell in the day but, while he plans to have another look today, his inclination was to blame good bowling and poor batting.
This has been a familiar refrain this season, exciting though it is to see wickets falling and results won on pitches designed to encourage a positive outcome. The Championship has some good batsmen but too many who seem unable to find the necessary application when the ball is moving around. It is just as well that the current England line-up still has legs because there are not many batsmen in the Championship screaming to be admitted to the Test team.
Lancashire will point to eight wins as evidence of their competitiveness, however, and they will need it here after Worcestershire, seeking to avenge their defeat at Blackpool 12 days ago and to keep Yorkshire in the bottom two, laid the foundations of what could be a handy first-innings lead on this pitch.
In the face of some good Lancashire bowling, in particular from all-rounder Tom Smith, they slipped to 77 for 5 but an unbroken partnership of 70 between James Cameron and Ben Scott has put them on top.
Smith produced two fine deliveries to remove Moeen Ali and Alexei Kervezee but Cameron survived a couple of scares – he squirted a ball from Farveez Maharoof on to his stumps without dislodging the bails on 70 and was put down on 86 at slip – to begin again today needing 13 for his century.
Lancashire's cause has been hampered by an injury to Chapple, who was off the field for 45 minutes for treatment to a knee problem, but was bowling again at the close.