Yorkshire 274 (Williamson 84, Bairstow 82) and 276 for 1 (Jaques 151*, Williamson 90*) trail Durham 573 by 23 runs
Yorkshire have Phil Jaques and Kane Williamson to thank for leaving them in a position to chase the most remarkable of Championship wins against Durham having been asked to follow-on after lunch on day three with a deficit of 299 runs. That is the county's aim heading into tomorrow's fourth day at Scarborough, no matter how unlikely it may seem.
The contest between the Championship's top two became one to relish as it swung one way then the other on the third day. Jaques and Williamson, Australia and New Zealand Test batsmen respectively, challenged Durham's position of strength with an unbroken second wicket partnership of 257 inside 60 overs to recover the score from 19 for 1 following the early loss of Adam Lyth.
As Lyth trooped off, Yorkshire, the Championship leaders, were contemplating a second defeat of the season. But Jaques scored the 42nd century of his first-class career, 151 not out off 192 balls, while Williamson, a late-season overseas signing designed to stiffen their Championship challenge, added an unbeaten 90 to his first innings 84.
Williamson ended the day having achieved the rare feat of completing a century partnership in the first innings, which slipped from 182 for 3 to 274 all out, and a double century in the second both on the same day.
"The game's still well and truly open," said Jaques, who helped to reduce his side's deficit to just 23 runs with his eleventh century in Yorkshire colours. "There's a lot of rough to work with, and they've got a lot of left-handers. We've also got a leg-spinner. If we can get a decent little lead, we might have a crack at them tomorrow afternoon.
"They were well on top making us follow-on, but we've pretty much knocked over their lead now. We're Yorkshire, and we're trying to win games of cricket. If it gets to a point where we're not scoring quick enough to build a lead, so be it. It's a fast scoring ground. If you don't bowl well, you'll go the distance. If you do bowl well, there's still something in it."
Yorkshire are still not clear of danger, but it would seem unlikely that they will suffer another collapse like they did on the third morning when they slipped from a position of relative comfort at 211 for 3 with Williamson and Jonny Bairstow, who made 82, going nicely.
They lost their last seven wickets for 63 in the face of some probing bowling from Ben Stokes, Scott Borthwick, Jamie Harrison and Mark Wood, who all finished with two wickets. The loss of Wood to a side strain for the afternoon and evening sessions hurt Durham.
The run out of Gary Ballance following a mix-up with Bairstow summed up Yorkshire's morning. The left-hander played his first ball beyond Chris Rushworth at mid-wicket, who chased the ball down and threw back to Phil Mustard behind the stumps as the pair went for two. Mustard did the rest with Ballance diving in vain to make his ground.
The start of Yorkshire's second innings was not without incident, either. Jaques survived a confident lbw shout from Stokes on 28 during a sustained spell of short-pitched bowling from the seamer. Jaques top-edged a six over long-leg and a four over Mustard's head before settling down to take advantage of a tiring attack.
There was also the unusual sight of a seven-ball over and an even rarer four-ball over, both bowled by Harrison from the Trafalgar Square End of the ground, where Martin Bodenham was standing. The four-ball over consisted of two no balls, which were not bowled again. It was a strange old day. Mind you, it could be the same on the final day as well.