Key keeps Kent in touch
Lancashire 284 (Prince 134) and 75 for 0 lead Kent 260 (Key 134, Harmison 59, Parry 3-51) by 99 runs
Division Two champions Lancashire look set to finish the County Championship season unbeaten after strengthening their grip on their final match against Kent at Canterbury. Lancashire reached the mid-point of the clash on 75 without loss in their second innings - an overall lead of 99.
Having dismissed Kent for 260 to claim a narrow first-innings advantage of 24, Red Rose openers Paul Horton and Luis Reece survived 21 overs through to stumps to dent Kent's hopes of notching a first home Championship win of the season.
Having started the day brightly by taking Lancashire's final two wickets for the addition of just 15 runs - Ashwell Prince failing to add to his overnight 134 - Kent's first-innings batting was again found wanting until their former captain Rob Key dug in for his fifth Championship century of the campaign.
Responding to Lancashire's 284, Kent suffered a miserable start and at 7 for 3 the follow-on looked a real possibility until Key saved face with a 118-ball century.
The hosts lost opener Sam Northeast for a duck after only 13 deliveries when the right-hander clipped firmly into the hands of midwicket against Kyle Jarvis. Eight balls later and with only a single to his name, Daniel Bell-Drummond then allowed one from Oliver Newby to squeeze through bat and pad and pluck out off stump.
Brendan Nash lasted three deliveries before he sparred outside off against Newby to be caught at the second attempt by Tom Smith at third slip as the procession back to the changing rooms continued.
However, Key then found a willing ally in fourth-wicket partner Ben Harmison as the pair batted on either side of lunch to add 158 in 35.1 overs - the highest partnership of the game by far. Harmison posted his fifth half-century of an improving campaign from 103 balls while Key looked comfortable throughout as he eased 10 fours and a six during his three-hour ton.
Harmison celebrated his fifty with a six off Newby but the bowler enjoyed revenge soon after by trapping the left-hander leg before for 59. The slide continued when Darren Stevens went in similar fashion to the lively Jarvis as Kent's last five wickets mustered only 41 runs.
Sam Billings was superbly caught one-handed at second slip by Andrea Agathangelou, Adam Ball also went leg-before and James Tredwell shouldered arms against Tom Smith to lose his off stump. Key then went for 134, snared by spinner Stephen Parry, who also bowled Kent's last man Matt Hunn to give Lancashire a narrow lead.
At the start of the day Kent required barely half-an-hour to polish off the Lancashire first innings. Debutant Hunn had Prince pocketed at second slip to give the rookie from Suffolk figures of 2 for 51, then Stevens bagged his 200th first-class wicket by having Parry caught in the cordon to deny Lancashire their third batting bonus point.