Tasmania 453 (Cowan 133, Butterworth 88, Copeland 4-124) and 0 for 17 trail New South Wales 440 (Hughes 138, Doherty 3-67) and 5 for 215 declared (Jaques 94, Hughes 93) by 185 runs
Tasmania require just 186 more runs for victory on the final day following a sudden declaration from New South Wales captain Simon Katich late on day four.
The Blues did the job early in the day, cleaning up the Tigers' tail; the hosts adding just 42 runs to their overnight score of 6 for 411 before they were bowled out. Steven O'Keefe did the damage, picking up two of the three wickets to fall to end up with figures of 3 for 64.
With the momentum back in visitors' favour, NSW would have been confident of amassing a lead well over 200 leading into day five, but a magical spell of swing bowling from Ben Hilfenhaus had them reeling at 2 for 6. The Tasmanian fast bowler removed David Warner for 2 before producing a peach to get rid of the dangerous Usman Khawaja - the ball pitching outside off then swinging back violently to dislodge the left-hander's off stump.
Phillip Hughes and Phil Jaques dug in, scoring slowly to steady the Blues' innings. The pair shared a gritty 181-run stand before James Faulkner had Hughes caught behind, slashing at a drive - the diminutive opener was denied back-to-back centuries, falling for 93.
At no stage did it appear the Blues would declare before stumps as Hughes and Jacques prodded and nudged the Tigers for singles and the occasional boundary, seemingly looking for a lead of 250 early on day five and 80 overs to bowl the Tigers out. However, after Jaques (94) was also denied his hundred, thanks to some sharp fielding from Alex Doolan, Katich sprung a surprise by declaring during a Nick Kruger over with the score on 5 for 215 in just under 64 overs, to set the hosts a victory target of 203.
That decision gave the Blues four overs at the hosts and though Trent Copeland and Pat Cummins bowling superbly in that short spell to create three chances, the Blues' fielders failed to capitalise on any of them.
The first came when Nick Kruger slashed at a full ball from Cummins and edged it straight to Hughes at second slip, who grassed a straightforward chance. Copeland drew a false stroke from Ed Cowan the next over, but the edge flew between Khawaja and Hughes in the slips, the former out of position.
Cummins gave the visitors one more chance in the final over, drawing an inside edge from Cowan, which ballooned off his pads to silly mid on, where Jaques failed to latch on to a difficult chance.
With the pitch still looking very flat - especially for a fifth day - the Blues will have their work cut out to dismiss a Tasmanian side determined to repeat their 2006-07 success and win their second Sheffield Shield title.
New South Wales
NSW vs Tasmania
Australian Domestic Season