Tom Smith's outstanding match had one more impressive element in the form of a two-and-a-half-hour 76 in support of a magnificent effort by Ashwell Prince. Yet the sterling efforts of both men counted for nothing in the end as Nottinghamshire finished a gruelling day in the field by taking the last Lancashire wicket with 11.1 overs left.
The margin of the win might look comfortable but for Lancashire it was close enough to feel an opportunity slipped through their grasp, however improbable. Prince, the 36-year-old former South African Test player, was superb, holding things together for four hours as Lancashire tried to score the 349 runs that would have taken the match.
Inevitably, he began to run out of partners after Nottinghamshire took the second new ball with their opponents six down, Smith falling to the second delivery after it was taken when Luke Fletcher squared him up and had him caught at first slip, ending a stand of 147.
Wayne White and Kabir Ali could not add many runs of their own, but Prince was still picking off boundaries and when he moved to 99 with a six off Andy Carter the home captain, Chris Read, was nervous enough to push most of his fielders back for him and focus their attack on James Anderson at the other end.
Prince pushed a single to complete his hundred – a third in four innings for Lancashire after the back-to-back centuries against Kent with which he completed their Second Division title season – but then stepped across in an attempt to whip a ball from Harry Gurney through the leg side and lost his leg stump. The home side's celebrations came with a large dash of relief.
"I was getting a bit twitchy," Mick Newell, the Nottinghamshire director of cricket, admitted. "At 112 for 6 we thought we were going to win a bit more comfortably. Prince played very well. We put down a couple of catches, which was disappointing, and the new ball was crucial."
The most significant of those drops spared Prince himself, on 18 and with the score on 122 for 6. It was a low, difficult chance to Jake Ball at mid-off from a ball by Carter that he struck firmly, but sometimes they stick.
It marred slightly an otherwise impressive performance by Ball on his Championship debut, the highlights of which were a couple of wonderful balls to dismiss Paul Horton and Luke Procter, both caught behind.
The first lifted and moved away late, and would have tested any batsman.
It means that even in the likely absence of Andre Adams, who is still resting a calf injury, Newell will have a selection dilemma against Middlesex at Lord's next week, when he will have Peter Siddle, the Australian Test player, available after missing this match because of visa problems.
Newell will also have the distraction of an interview for the vacant England head coach's job, where he will again compete with Lancashire's Peter Moores. It is understood interviews will be at Lord's, on the last day of Nottinghamshire's match.Reuse content