Kent 236 (Northeast 109*, McCarthy 6-63) and 35 for 0 require a further 449 runs to beat Durham 448 (Collingwood 120, Pringle 71, Stevens 5-78) and 271 for 6 dec (Clark 83, Collingwood 51*)
Title-chasing Kent will require a backs-to-the-wall batting effort on Sunday if they are to protect their unbeaten Division Two status after tomorrow's final day of their Specsavers County Championship clash with Durham in Canterbury.
Having been set an unlikely victory pursuit of 484 in a minimum of 90 overs, the hosts started their second innings just after 5.30pm and went in unscathed at stumps on 35 for nought - still needing 449 for an unlikely win.
Openers Daniel Bell-Drummond and Sean Dickson escaped the 30-minute examination without alarm despite a pitch that is waring and beginning to show signs of variable bounce.
A Durham victory would finally take them above zero after they began the season with a 48-point penalty from the ECB.
Kent had started the day hanging on grimly in their first innings with skipper Sam Northeast leading their fight to avoid the follow-on. However, Paul Collingwood's side needed only 12 overs and 50 minutes' play to mop up Kent's two remaining first-inning's wickets and secure a 212-run lead.
Barry McCarthy polished the job off by having Yasir Shah caught behind by a tumbling Stuart Poynter for 48 and then, with his next delivery, snaring Mitchell Claydon lbw with the home score on 236.
Debutant Shah featured in a ninth-wicket stand worth 113 in 34.2 overs with his new captain Northeast, who was left unbeaten on 109 after posting his 18th first-class hundred from 162 balls and with 13 fours.
McCarthy finished with a career-best 6 for 63, while Chris Rushworth bagged 3 for 69 in a much-improved Durham bowling performance.
Batting again before noon and after deciding not to enforce the follow-on, Durham suffered a near immediate blow with the loss of left-handed opener Keaton Jennings.
Prodding half-forward and inside the line of Darren Stevens' first delivery, an off-cutter, the ball thudded into the right pad forcing umpire Jeff Evans to raise his finger.
Stephen Cook needed a stroke of luck to survive with his score on 25. Driving loosely at one from Will Gidman he watched as Matt Coles, at second slip, dropped a tough chance diving in front of first slip.
After lunch, Durham continued at a surprisingly sedate pace, adding 100 in the mid-session for the loss of Stephen Cook who, with his score on 44, fenced at one from Claydon to edge to the keeper.
Kent's short-leg fielder Dickson went off for treatment just before tea when Graham Clark's full-blooded sweep against Yasir Shah struck him a fearful blow at the back of his neck and immediately drew blood. Thankfully, the South Africa-born player emerged after the interval to take up a fielding spot on the ropes as Durham started to increase their run rate.
Cameron Steel miscued a hook against Coles to hole out to mid-wicket, then Clark, after reaching an 81-ball 50, was bowled around his legs by Shah. In the quest for quicker runs Ryan Pringle was stumped off the bowling of Joe Denly and Stuart Poynter holed out to deep square leg to gift Yasir Shah his second scalp of the innings.
Paul Collingwood upped the tempo further with a 49-ball, unbeaten 50 that took his side to 271 for six before his declaration with 10 overs remaining in the day.