Ajmal's five leaves Hampshire on the ropes
Hampshire 183 (Vince 56, Smith 51*, Ajmal 5-28, Leach 4-75) and 164 for 6 (Shantry 3-33) trail Worcestershire 478 by 131 runs
Saeed Ajmal's rehabilitation took a giant step forward when his first five-wicket haul since August 2014 gave Worcestershire scent of a victory which would ease their relegation worries but cut off Hampshire at the foot of Division One in the LV= County Championship.
He may not be the magician who claimed 63 wickets in nine games in last summer's promotion charge, but for the first time since he was forced to re-structure his action, he has hinted that he could become a match-winner again.
A combination of Ajmal's craft and Joe Leach's stout-hearted medium-fast bowling routed Hampshire for 183 and, having been hurried into following on 295 behind, there was nothing to suggest an imminent escape from their current crisis of confidence.
The last five completed innings have failed to produce even one total of 300 and a sixth is highly likely after closing at 164 for 6, still 131 short of making Worcestershire bat again.
It was something for Hampshire, but by no means enough, that James Vince and Will Smith made half-centuries in the first innings. Vince's 56 was his second highest score of the season but the downside was two dismissals without playing a shot, the second time for a duck as Ajmal took the first of three wickets to fall in consecutive overs.
In all, they lost 13 on the day and as much as Worcestershire bowled with honesty and intensity - and a lot of guile in the case of Ajmal's five for 28 from 17 overs - this was too many on a dry but not impossible batting surface.
On resuming at 86 for 3, Hampshire almost got through the first hour unscathed but when Vince misjudged the first ball of a new spell by Leach, the slide was under way. While Ajmal took wickets in successive overs, Adam Wheater giving a return chance and Joe Gatting sweeping to deep square leg, the impressive Leach bowled Gareth Berg first ball.
Smith made the most of some lower-order support but was left stranded on 51 from 113 balls after scoring all of the 31 added with last man Jackson Bird. Ajmal accounted for Danny Briggs and Brad Wheal, the latter caught and bowled at the second attempt, and Bird was finally trapped in front by Leach.
It was a clever strategy by Worcestershire to keep Jack Shantry back for the second innings and sure enough he was at forefront of the push for victory, although there was a frustrating gap after the leg-before dismissal of Jimmy Adams for his 50th first-class wicket of the season.
Hampshire spirits were beginning to rise until Shantry ended a partnership of 65, a bat-pad catch to the wicketkeeper accounting for Sean Terry (37) before Michael Carberry (32) chopped on. Vince then became Ajmal's sixth victim of the match and Hampshire were back on the ropes with half the side gone for 97 when Wheather was caught behind off Charlie Morris.
Smith, for the second time, held up Worcestershire, digging in for 29 in 105 minutes until giving Brett D'Oliveira a return catch, and Gatting was equally stubborn with 28 not out in 27 overs.