East Zone 143 and 28 for 1 (SS Das 18*, Arindam Das 2*) need another 649 runs to beat North Zone 360 and 459 for 2 (Chopra 205*, Manhas 205*)

Aakash Chopra slammed an unbeaten 205 as North tightened their grip on the match © Cricinfo Ltd

Double-centuries from opener Aakash Chopra and captain Mithun Manhas all but ensured North Zone a place in the final of the Duleep Trophy. With a day remaining in the match, East Zone need a gargantuan 649 more runs to win and progress to the finals.

Resuming on 109 for 2, North piled on the misery as Chopra and Manhas forged a monumental unbroken 368-run third-wicket stand. Manhas, who top scored in the first innings with a brisk 88, needed just 255 balls to crack his 205 with the help of 27 fours and two sixes. Chopra was a touch more subdued, consuming 301 deliveries in his knock which included 21 fours.

This was Manhas' maiden first-class double while Chopra's 205 was his third double in the last six months, having made 215 against Himachal Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy in December and an unbeaten 239 against the visiting South Africa A side in September.

It was a day of hard toil for the East bowlers, with left-arm spinner Tushar Saha bearing the brunt, sending down 43.5 overs, nearly half the total bowled, in the innings. North finally declared at 459 for 2, setting a colossal target of 677, and leaving the East batsmen facing a sticky 12 overs to face before stumps.

Wriddhiman Saha, who was the only batsman to make a substantial contribution in the first innings, was promoted to open the innings. However, he fell to Rajat Bhatia for 2. At stumps, East were at 28 for 1, with little chance of advancing to the final.