Gloucestershire left with sense of inferiority
Northants ended the second day at Cheltenham looking for a convincing win over Gloucestershire to lift them clear of the bottom rung of the second division.
A decisive breakthrough in the evening session saw them reduce the home side of 77-4 still 466 behind on a College Ground wicket showing signs of wear.
Having built their first innings score of 543 around the meaty blows of their England-qualified Australian Jeff Cook as he made 137 in four and a half hours, Northants then found the right mix of pace and spin to leave Gloucestershire with a sense of inferiority.
This was only too evident when the makeshift opening pair of Dominic Hewson and Rob Cunliffe were both back in the pavilion by the end of the seventh over, Hewson not offering a shot to a ball which went straight through into his stumps and Cunliffe edging to Matt Haynes in the slips.
Gloucestershire, for all their earnest approach, had never found the swing Darren Cousins uncovered to claim those two wickets but then the pitch had been deadened by several days' rain and then scuffed as the bowlers ran through.
With the openers gone with only 18 scored Northants' skipper Haynes quickly brought Tony Penberthy on at the College Lawn end and his medium pace gave him two quick wickets.
Home captain Mark Alleyne has been largely out of form with the bat since leading the England A tour in the winter and like Hewson he made no attempt to play the ball which went through to strike his back pad, departing for six to his 12th ball.
Then Matt Windows clipped a ball off his pads to Jason Brown and at 40-4 there was a possibility a demoralised side might not last the 35 overs of the evening session.
They did by promoting the combative Jack Russell to encourage that first-season batsman Chris Taylor. The wicket-keeper drew the flak leaving Taylor to strike out a determined 27 with four boundaries although the partnership was lucky to survive when Adrian Rollins at short leg juggled with a prod by Russell but failed to hold on to it at the second attempt.
Where Gloucestershire struggled Northants had been composed building a variety of solid innings around Cook who waited patiently for the right ball.
Ninety two of his runs came in boundaries before he was undone by a ball from his fellow-Australian Ian Harvey which cut in to find his middle stump.
Cook in the 209 balls he faced saw the score rise from 131-1 when he went in to 416-5 when he left with Northants by then on course for a maximum five batting points.
They sailed past their previous highest total in matches between these counties - 516 at Bristol back in 1913 - as their last five batsmen put on 127 with David Ripley unbeaten on 48.
The best of the home bowling came from the uncapped Mike Cawdron who kept up a whippy pace and line through several spells to finish with three for 70 off 28 overs.