Given that Middlesex would have set their sights on batting Lancashire out of the game when they won the toss here, Glen Chapple’s side might in normal circumstances have been pretty pleased with themselves at dismissing their opponents for 214 before bad light and rain forced an early close.
These are not normal circumstances, however. In the match that will decide the outstanding relegation issue, Lancashire have to win and by 19 clear points to ensure that they rather than Middlesex are still in Division One next season, and the one batting point they allowed their opponents could be the one that sends them down.
Vice captain Paul Horton still rated their bowling performance as outstanding given that they are so short of resources they had to send an SOS to Junaid Khan, their Twenty20 fast bowler, to fly back from Pakistan for his only match in this year’s Championship.
Yet that solitary Middlesex point means that Lancashire have to score at least 350 in their first innings to guarantee their safety, which is something they have managed only twice this season.
Khan failed to take a wicket but with all-rounder Tom Smith absent through injury, his presence at least took some of the pressure off Chapple, who may be playing the last first-class match of his career with his future undecided.
He is thought likely to retire as a player if he is named as Lancashire coach for 2015, but even well into his 41st year he remains a high-class seam bowler, as was borne out as he took 4 for 55 despite the discomfort of a broken finger in his left hand.
Luke Procter, recently restored to the side after a below-par season, finished with 4 for 50 and 23-year-old Tom Bailey bowled with impressive control for a rookie in only his fourth first-class match.
But it will be three dropped catches that prey on Lancashire’s minds, particularly Horton’s at first slip which denied Chapple a five-wicket haul when James Harris was on four. Harris added 23 more runs, including the boundary that secured that potentially crucial point.