Lancashire's collective will enabled them to recover from unpromising situations more than once on the way to their first outright title in 77 years last summer. They will need to draw deep on their resolve here if they are to deny Sussex a victory.
Beaten by an innings on the same ground last season, the visitors are in altogether better shape this time after their captain, Michael Yardy, took advantage of some sloppy fielding to make his 18th first-class century and Australian quick Steve Magoffin then blasted out the home side's top order.
It leaves the champions facing the prospect of losing their opening match for the first time since 1998 and suffering a rare dent in their home record. Since Sussex won at Liverpool in July 2007, Lancashire have lost only four home matches in 35.
Should they lose this one, it will reinforce the conviction of their coach, Peter Moores, that the supposedly weaker sides in the First Division are more than capable of springing a shock, but it will not please him that Lancashire contributed to their own demise.
This was particularly true during the morning session, when four catches were spilled. Ed Joyce (54) was put down at first slip by Paul Horton off Kyle Hogg; Joe Gatting (2) behind the stumps off Luke Procter; and Yardy at second slip (Stephen Moore) off Glen Chapple on 84 and again by Horton at first slip off Saj Mahmood on 98. In all, the misses cost 52 runs, which could be critical in a low-scoring contest.
Lancashire fought back with typical conviction after lunch, having taken the field to the accompaniment of an audible rallying call from their skipper, Chapple. The first 17 overs after lunch conceded only 13 runs. Simon Kerrigan had Yardy stumped when the century-maker momentarily wandered out of his crease and when the new ball became available, Chapple used it superbly to take two quick wickets. But Sussex were let off the hook again as Amjad Khan and James Anyon added 43 for the ninth wicket.
The 32-year-old Magoffin, who has enjoyed stints with Leicestershire, Surrey and Worcestershire, is a late replacement as Sussex's overseas player after a deal to sign the New Zealander Tim Southee collapsed. Magoffin made the first breakthrough after Lancashire began their second innings 176 runs behind, when Moore edged to first slip, and then brought one back to trap Karl Brown leg before, shouldering arms to his first ball. He took his third wicket in a spell of 3 for 14 when Paul Horton went after a widish ball and was taken at third slip.
Steven Croft was then bowled by Monty Panesar's fifth delivery and Lancashire's fate seemed to rest heavily on the shoulders of Ashwell Prince.