Lancashire 252 and 107 for 7 (Coad 4-14) need a further 121 to beat Yorkshire 209 and 272 (Ballance 85, Kohler-Cadmore 63, Bailey 4-69)
Now then. If a cricket-lover had arrived at Headingley on the third day of this match having not watched a game for 50 years but being nevertheless well-versed in the matchless reports of the former Yorkshire Post correspondent, J M Kilburn, he may well have been comforted that next to nowt had changed. And since Kilburn reported on some of the greatest eras in the county's cricket, when victories came as standard, he may have assumed that nothing had altered there either.
For just when it seemed that Lancashire had a chance to secure the win that would have helped them in their desperate quest to avoid relegation, the Yorkshire seam attack delivered the sort of evening session that will warm White Rose supporters from Wombwell to Whitby and all points in the Broad Acres beyond.
Lancashire had needed 230 to win on a pitch which seemed to be easing; after all Yorkshire's batsmen had made 272 on it. Yet with the day done and as hitherto sane men try to recover their wits, home supporters can savour the memory of a scoreboard which read 109 for 7 at the close. Yorkshire have had their problems this season but even the dourest of their followers will be content with that.
And no one was underestimating the importance of this contest. Many previous Roses matches have decided championships; the result of this rascal will go a long way towards determining which of these teams goes down. Now both Leicester and Northampton are fine and greatly under-appreciated venues, but they are not where Lancashire's players want to be strutting their four-day stuff next year. Least of all, maybe, Richard Gleeson, who has just arrived from Wantage Road and has no particular wish to return so soon.
But before Lancashire begin their last four-day game of the season at the Ageas Bowl a week on Monday their fate may have been decided. And they can really castigate no one but themselves. Throughout this campaign, Liam Livingstone's team has always had a batting collapse in it. And this last one may have settled their chips.
Lancashire's pursuit of a victory beyond price began poorly when Alex Davies slashed wildly at a lifter from Ben Coad and nicked a catch to Jonny Tattersall. Seven overs later Karl Brown was pinned on the back foot by a rejuvenated Tim Bresnan. That left Lancashire on 31 for 2 in the twelfth over and the fragile recovery mounted by Steven Croft and Liam Livingstone was cut short when Croft pulled Jack Brooks to Jeet Raval at midwicket. In his next over Brooks struck again, taking the crucial wicket of Livingstone with a ball that kept low and uprooted the off stump. The Lancashire captain's departure for 28 was celebrated in gorgeous fashion by Brooks who seemed to be attempting a lap of honour pursued by his colleagues.
But Yorkshire's joy was nowhere near ended with Lancashire stumbling on 81 for 4. Some might argue the carnival only got going when Ben Coad took three wickets in eight balls. The first of Coad's victims was Dane Vilas, who recently rescued his side with an unbeaten hundred at Southport. Vilas was bowled by a ball which nipped away and may have kept low and his departure was followed by that of both Danny Lamb and Tom Bailey. Only the last knockings are left now.
And all this drama was merely the climax of a day which had been entirely in keeping with the great tradition of Roses cricket. Seeking to build a match-winning advantage, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Gary Ballance battled for every run against bowlers who generally stuck to tight lines.
Singles were begrudged, appeals were frequent and Lancastrians were barracked. It was wonderful stuff. This, though, was attrition with a purpose and Kilburn would have surely have loved it. Runs dropped slowly in the blue morning. The trees towards Canterbury Road and Langdale Gardens looked like giant florets of broccoli. The contest was as intense as the incomparable game can offer.
In the sixth over of the day Graham Onions appealed confidently for a caught behind against Kohler-Cadmore but Rob Bailey, impassive as an Easter Island statue, turned the claim down. The same umpire later warned Gleeson for running on the pitch. In the midst of these kerfuffles, the officials were asked by Lancashire to change the ball because it had gone out of shape. The request was rejected and there was no indication Livingstone offered the compromise of keeping the ball but selecting a fresh umpire from a box of six.
For much of the session Keshav Maharaj operated from the Football Stand End and he eventually gained leg before decisions against both Kohler-Cadmore, who made 63, and Ballance, whose 85 included 14 fine boundaries. But almost every ball seemed to bring Maharaj pleasure or agony: pleasure when he took the wicket; agony when the batsman had the effrontery to place some part of his person in its path to the stumps. It was tense cricket and properly so. This was the type of session that determines seasons, contracts, career-paths. And we still had the evening to come.
After lunch Yorkshire's tail scrambled their way to a total of 272. Leg byes were applauded wildly before Bailey and Onions helped to end the innings. Then Yorkshire's bowlers went out to deliver the spells that will be remembered deep into the autumn and well beyond. It was a sight to see and Kilburn would have appreciated it, albeit quietly, eloquently, and with a proper reserve.