Hodd and Panesar turn tide for Sussex
Sussex 217 and 321 v Middlesex 296 and 122 for 5
Sussex were five wickets away from a fifth successive win after Andrew Hodd led a stirring third-day fightback in their Division Two clash with Middlesex at Hove.
The leaders looked up against it when they lost the England wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, in the second over of the day, to effectively leave them 39 for 5. But Sussex rallied, led by Hodd's fourth career century and a career-best 46 not out from Monty Panesar, as their last five wickets added 203.
That left Middlesex needing 243 for their first win of the season. However, another brittle performance from the top-order left them struggling at 122 for 5 at the close - still needing 121 runs to win.
Corey Collymore started the rot when he trapped Scott Newman (5) lbw offering no shot, and then bowled Owais Shah (4) via an inside-edge with the new ball. The real damage was done, however, by allrounder Robin Martin-Jenkins who picked up three wickets in 14 balls including England captain Andrew Strauss for 23.
Strauss, desperate for some runs with the first Test against Bangladesh less than three weeks away, was beginning to look the part when he was trapped on the crease in Martin-Jenkins' first over. Strauss has scored one fifty in 10 championship innings this season.
Martin-Jenkins followed that by bowling Neil Dexter (8) who fatally played back to one angled into him before John Simpson (0) nicked to Prior, having already survived an lbw shout and edged just short of second slip earlier in the same over.
Dawid Malan held his side together with an aggressive unbeaten half-century which has already included 10 fours and will resume tomorrow on 56, having so far added 44 with Gareth Berg (10 not out) for the sixth wicket. If the second half of the day belonged to Martin-Jenkins, he would recognise that his side were only able to press for victory thanks to Hodd's 109 and the support he received from the tail.
Prior, who made an unbeaten 123 in the first innings, appeared to be their best hope but he added just a single to his overnight 48 when he hooked Iain O'Brien's first ball of the day to the fielder at deep midwicket. Martin-Jenkins shouldered arms to Tim Murtagh but James Anyon helped turn the tide in a seventh-wicket stand of 65 for the seventh wicket.
Murtagh returned to pick up Anyon (19) and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan (1) in successive overs, at which point Sussex's lead was 144, but the busy Hodd and Panesar were soon taking the attack back to Middlesex with some enterprising strokeplay.
Hodd's hundred came off 161 balls with 10 boundaries and he passed 1,500 first-class runs in the process. He added another nine runs before O'Brien returned to pin him with the second new ball but Panesar and last man Collymore added to Middlesex's frustration.
Panesar was dropped at third slip on 35 and made the most of his reprieve to reach his career-best 46 not out in just under two hours with five fours. Just when it looked as if Panesar might celebrate a maiden fifty Collymore (13), who had helped him add 33 for the last wicket, became the 15th lbw victim of the match, trapped by Pedro Collins.