Smith keeps Lancs alive in defining match
Lancashire 266 and 41 for 2 require a further 299 to beat Durham 338 and 267 (Borthwick 92, Smith 5-42)
Day four at Chester-le-Street could prove to be season-defining for Durham and Lancashire, who both have fears of relegation having started 2014 with hopes of much better things. Lancashire require another 299 runs to win on a deteriorating pitch.
There is no doubt that Durham, boosted by two Chris Rushworth strikes before the close, hold the advantage as they search for their first win. After all, Lancashire would have to score their highest score of the season so far to head back down the A1 with 21 points under their belts. But the result would have been beyond any doubt had it not been for the exploits of Lancashire's in-form Tom Smith.
Smith, a 28-year-old allrounder, is hugely popular at Old Trafford - with players, coaches and the supporters. Injuries have stymied his development since breaking through in 2005 and he even started last season out of the team on selection grounds with a bevy of allrounders on the staff.
This summer, he is the first name on the teamsheet. He is Lancashire's leading wicket-taker in the Championship with 33 wickets, two fewer than his previous best haul of 35 in 2006. He is also one of only three batsmen who has scored 450 runs this summer, doing it from No. 7 in the order, and he has also excelled as an opening batsman in the first half of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Smith claimed 5 for 42 as Durham were bowled out for 267 in their second innings to leave Lancashire facing 15 overs before close. Although this was his third five-for of the campaign, these were his best figures since taking 6 for 94 against Hampshire in August 2010.
His return included two double-wicket maidens, one during the morning and one just before tea. He had Michael Richardson lbw and Ben Stokes caught and bowled in the last three balls of the 24th over before getting Gordon Muchall caught behind with a beauty and Phil Mustard lbw within five balls of the 63rd.
Durham will still be happy with their position, owing much to Scott Borthwick's 92 off 139 balls. He shared 99 for the fifth wicket with Paul Collingwood, who made 47, before John Hastings pushed the home lead up beyond 300 with a belligerent 40.
Should Durham win, they will leapfrog Lancashire into seventh place and hold a 15-point advantage with a game in hand at the halfway point of their season. A Lancashire win would see them gain a 17-point advantage.
Rushworth ousted Paul Horton lbw for a six-ball duck with a full delivery in the first over of the innings, by far and away the most effective length on this surface throughout the contest.
Alex Davies and Usman Khawaja were in the process of rebuilding the innings, with the help of six no balls in Hastings' first three overs, before Rushworth struck again at the start of the day's last over when he trapped the former lbw.