Lancashire 130 and 269 for 4 (Jennings 135*, Davies 64) need 333 more runs to beat Worcestershire 247 and 484 for 7 dec (Mitchell 163, Guptill 111, Fell 62, Cox 58*)
Brett D'Oliveira is effectively on trial as Worcestershire's interim captain in Joe Leach's enforced absence, so a degree of conservatism in setting Lancashire a target might be understandable, but even in those circumstances this was possibly taking caution a bit far. No team in the history of first-class cricket has chased down a fourth-innings target bigger than 536. To win here, Lancashire must score 602.
Actually, you could see why he was taking no chances in waiting as long as he did, almost an hour and a half into the morning session when spectators arriving for the start were puzzled as to why he had not declared overnight. A lead of 478 was all well and good, but the pitch in use for this game had played very nicely on day two - handsomely exploited by Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell - and, he would have reasoned, this Lancashire line-up has several batsmen with the patience and technique to build long and substantial innings.
Indeed, with an hour left on day three, the possibility of Lancashire achieving a truly historic victory did not seem totally out of the question. They had scored more than a third of the runs needed and lost only two wickets. Just the 368 more runs to get, with 110 overs still to play.
The loss of Shivnarine Chanderpaul at that point rather changed the dynamics. In his pomp, the gnarled old grinder would have relished such a situation and probably fancied himself to dig in for a very long stay. But he is nearly 44 now and relinquishes his wicket with somewhat less of a fight these days. On 28, with wicketkeeper Ben Cox standing up to seamer Charlie Morris, he dabbed rather ineffectually at a ball outside off stump and was gone, tidily caught behind.
With that, you fancied, Lancashire's focus switched unequivocally from a momentous run chase to damage limitation, with the key to success in that respect - i.e, emerging with a draw - entirely dependent on how many Keaton Jennings could score and whether anyone else could give him the same kind of support that Alex Davies had provided in an opening stand of 126.
By the time Chanderpaul departed, the England opener had already delivered reassuring evidence of his continuing form at Championship level with his third red-ball century for Lancashire, with whom the former Durham batsman, the only Lancashire player to emerge from their dismal first innings with much credit, is fast becoming a key figure.
He reached 100 from 166 balls, 80 of which he scored in boundaries, zipping across an outfield becoming faster, it seemed, by the minute as the clouds disappeared, the wind dropped and the impending heatwave began to build. He had an escape on 50, put down at slip by Ross Whiteley off D'Oliveira's legspin, but that was the only chance he offered.
D'Oliveira had dismissed both Davies and Haseeb Hameed, and when the Morris-Cox combination claimed a second victim in Rob Jones, the odds against Worcestershire breaking their duck for the season shortened a little more. Jennings and Dane Vilas will have to negotiate the new ball early on the final morning too.
In one positive footnote for Lancashire, it was confirmed that Joe Mennie, the Australian bowling allrounder who has been replaced in this match by Danny Lamb in the first use of a concussion substitute in England, suffered nothing worse than mild concussion when he was hit on the head with the ball on Thursday and any absence from cricket should only be brief.