Lancs close in despite another Moeen ton
Worcestershire 287 and 166 for 5 (Moeen 101*) lead Lancashire 441 (Smith 84, Procter 76) by 12 runs
Lancashire look poised to take another step towards promotion from the Division Two, despite the best efforts of Worcestershire batsman Moeen Ali on day three at New Road.
The England Lions left-hander became the first batsman to score two hundreds in a match for Worcestershire for three years as they limped to 166 for 5, a slender lead of 12 after Lancashire had made 441 in their first innings. With one day of the match remaining, it would appear Worcestershire's hopes rest solely on Moeen's shoulders.
The home side were quickly in trouble, with Kyle Hogg having Matt Pardoe caught behind, while Lancashire captain Glen Chapple had his opposite number Daryl Mitchell lbw inside the first eight overs.
Moeen shrugged off the double blow and looked a class apart as he accelerated to a half-century while taking 18 runs from an over by rookie offspinner Arron Lilley. Although more conservative at the beginning of his second 50, he picked up the tempo again in reaching the close on 101 not out with 11 fours and three sixes from 142 balls.
Thilan Samaraweera, Tom Fell and Ross Whiteley gave him some support but further wickets for Tom Smith, Chapple and Lilley edged Lancashire closer to a seventh win in 12 games.
Earlier they secured maximum batting points for the first time in the campaign as Smith brought his injury-hit season to life with 84 from 125 balls and Luke Procter reeled off a fourth consecutive half-century. Worcestershire's bowlers failed to maintain any level of intensity when Smith and Procter added 136 in 35 overs.
It proved to be no advantage at all when Simon Katich, having raced to a century in 86 balls on the previous afternoon, steered Jack Shantry's first delivery of the day straight to Samaraweera at gully. With the Australian gone for 105, there was not much between the teams on the scoreboard but the game quickly ran away from Worcestershire as Smith, in particular, found his range against some wayward bowling.
The allrounder's first half-century of the summer came up in only 75 balls and by lunch Lancashire were in the driving seat with a lead of 116. Procter's rich run of form took him to 76 before a miscontrolled shot off his legs sparked a quick wrap-up with the new ball, Alan Richardson and Graeme Cessford taking the last four wickets in 45 minutes after lunch.
Shantry did well to hold a low chance from Procter at wide mid-on off Richardson and wicketkeeper Ben Cox picked up three catches, the best when he stretched to his right to reach Smith's leg-side deflection off Cessford (4 for 73).
Richardson had to bowl 33 overs - twice as many as Cessford - for a return of 4 for 102 which put him on 49 Championship wickets for the season.