Northamptonshire 397 and 154 for 4 lead Surrey 386 by 165 runs

A thrilling last-wicket partnership between Surrey's Andre Nel and Jade Dernbach helped drag their side back into their County Championship Division Two contest against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road. The pair smashed 118 runs off 147 balls to help the visitors from 268 for 9 to 386 all out, with both making their highest scores in all forms of the game.

Former South African paceman Nel hammered 96 off 125 balls, while Dernbach's knock of 56 not out from 67 balls included two huge sixes. Nel then took two wickets and Dernbach one as Northants moved to 154 for 4 at the close of day three, with wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien top-scoring with 44 and all three results still possible.

Surrey began the day on 210 for 7, 187 runs behind Northants' total of 397, with Matthew Spriegel resuming on 25 and Nel yet to score. Former Sri Lanka seamer Chaminda Vaas broke through in the 14th over of the day when Spriegel's (43) attempted pull was edged to O'Brien.

Tim Linley, who took his maiden first-class five-wicket haul on day two, faced 10 balls without scoring before edging Lee Daggett to O'Brien, who took his fourth catch of the innings.

But Nel smashed an explosive half-century, his first for Surrey, off 63 balls before tailender Dernbach surpassed his previous best first-class score of 19, made against Northants last year. Nel then went past his highest total, 56 for South Africa versus Bangladesh A at Worcester in 2008, as the last pair piled on the runs to guide their side to 352 for 9 at lunch.

Dernbach reached his first ever half-century off just 56 balls before Nel was trapped lbw just four runs short of an improbable century by former international team-mate Nicky Boje.

With their lead cut to 11 runs, Northants were haunted by Nel again in the ninth over of their second innings when his delivery brushed Stephen Peters' (9) pad before hitting his leg stump. The hosts then lost O'Brien, who made 44 off 55 balls before edging Dernbach to Surrey wicketkeeper Steven Davies with the last ball before tea.

Mal Loye, who smashed 164 in his first innings, made it to just 20 this time before being caught leg before by Chris Schofield in the first full over after the interval.

Rob White made a patient 29 as part of a 50-run partnership with Boje before throwing his wicket away by needlessly launching Nel straight to Linley at fine leg. Northants captain Andrew Hall and ex-skipper Boje then guided the hosts to the close, which came five overs early because of bad light.