Warwickshire 293 (Norwell 64) and 76 for 2 lead Surrey 188 (Foakes 57*, Patel 4-53) by 181 runs
Struggling Warwickshire's hopes of putting themselves in an impregnable position against champions Surrey were badly hampered by persistent drizzly rain at Edgbaston, which limited play to just the first 22 of 104 scheduled overs.
In that 90-minute passage, having been 26 without loss overnight, Warwickshire moved on to 44 before Gareth Batty, one of the two veteran offspinners having an influence on this game, struck with his first delivery of the morning.
The Yorkshireman, who will be 42 in October, trapped Dominic Sibley in the crease and claimed a second victim three overs later, when Rob Yates was also adjudged to be out leg before, although he seemed a little unfortunate, having put in a decent stride down the pitch.
Will Rhodes, who survived a difficult caught-and-bowled chance to Matt Dunn on 17, doubled his tally while adding a further 26 with Sam Hain.
The forecast is much better for day four, yet unless Surrey can bowl the home side out and earn themselves a run chase it is difficult to see any result other than a draw.
Warwickshire, having been beaten in all three matches so far and with only 15 bonus points accrued, will not want to risk another defeat after outplaying the visitors to this point.
Surrey, on the other hand, having drawn all their matches, need a win to give their title defence some impetus, with already much ground to make up on leaders Hampshire.
Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel has been pleased with a collective improvement in his team's performance in this match so far, although it is likely that Michael Burgess, the wicketkeeper-batsman signed from Sussex, initially on a loan that starts on June 1, will be included at someone's expense against Nottinghamshire next week, starting on Monday.
Given that Nottinghamshire are winless in four matches, it is a fixture that might yet determine who occupies the one relegation place at the end of September.
Former captain Ian Bell, however, is still several weeks away from a return after surgery on the toe injury he suffered playing in the Pakistan Super League.