Surrey 285 and 170 for 9 (Riley 4-65, Claydon 3-42) lead Kent 435 by 20 runs
Kent all but confirmed their first Championship victory of the season despite ending the day requiring one more wicket and what looks like being a handful of fourth-innings runs. Surrey's lead does not even amount to a small hill of beans and Kent will be confident of grinding them up for coffee on the fourth morning for a maximum-points victory that would lift them off the bottom of Division Two in a caffeinated rush.
It was another fine day in the life of Adam Riley, who took his match haul to eight wickets - only Rob Key missing a sharp chance at slip off Matthew Dunn denied him a five-for, whilst also helping to prolong Surrey's resistance. Mitch Claydon and Doug Bollinger bent their backs as Kent took the extra half an hour, with the threat of rain on Wednesday the only thing likely to dampen expectations in Canterbury.
For Surrey, Graeme Smith, who spent the morning off the field as his daughter was unwell and consequently came in to bat at No. 6, was alone in demonstrating the required level of cussedness for the situation. When he became Riley's fourth victim, picking out long-on via an uncharacteristic hoick with the scores level, the jig was effectively up, although Stuart Meaker lasted for 76 deliveries, more than anyone bar Smith, to take the game into a fourth day.
Graham Ford has already indicated that Surrey supporters will have to be "realistic" about their expectations for this season: defeat would leave them winless after four matches. The average age of the team fielded here was only a little above 24 and while there is promise in the ranks, not all promises are kept.
Rory Burns is quite capable of grinding it out, as 30 runs from 109 balls in the match suggests, but his dismissal highlighted an impetuosity that Kent were able to exploit. With Surrey struggling in their second innings, Burns played and missed at Darren Stevens, an indiscretion that was followed by an angry swish of the bat and a few paces towards square leg to regain equilibrium. The next delivery was presented with an exaggerated front-foot leave; the one after, top-edged on the pull to midwicket. It might be unkind to suggest that goldfish have kept hold of a thought for longer.
In simple terms, Kent have bowled with greater discipline, while their two centurions in the first innings attested to what was possible on the pitch. Although they lost their last eight wickets for 107 runs, Key and Brendon Nash effectively provided bed and breakfast for the entire team.
"I can't believe it!" exclaimed one Kent supporter over by the Les Ames Stand, having come in shortly after lunch to find Surrey already two down in their second innings, although he was quickly guarding against optimism with a warning that rain was forecast for Wednesday afternoon.
Riley was brought into the action after nine overs, ready to wheel away against a phalanx of left-handers (Surrey have five in their top seven). He bowled 32 of 70 overs from that point on, all but two from the Pavilion End, although first success came having switched to the Nackington Road End, when Zafar Ansari seemed to play around a full toss and, having shimmied out of his crease, was smartly stumped by Sam Billings.
Although his action and skills are orthodox, there is some guile to Riley's approach. Mixing up his length and pace, he seemed able to force misjudgements on a surface that was far from malign.
Steven Davies, having clipped his seventh four crisply through midwicket and driven two more through the covers to bring up a half-century stand with Smith, got himself in a tangle to fall lbw for 40; Jason Roy, who was going skittishly forwards and back in his crease, then mistimed a drive to short mid-on, where Key snatched a low catch above the grass. The wicket of Smith gave Riley his best match haul for Kent so far.
Surrey conceded a first-innings deficit of 150, although after toiling for the best part of a day to dismiss Kent's top order, there was a bit more spit and polish about their bowling on the third morning. Dunn, generating appreciable pace from his hulking frame, had Stevens swishing at a wide one and then trapped Ben Harmison lbw with only three runs added to the overnight score.
With Smith off the pitch, Jade Dernbach assumed captaincy duties, loudly cajoling and encouraging his team-mates from mid-on. After Billings and Adam Ball had taken Kent past 400 and secured maximum bonus points in a match for the first time since July 2012, Dernbach brought himself back on to end their stand at 52.
Billings survived an inside edge on to his stumps that failed to dislodge a bail but Dernbach swept the floppy fringe of disappointment out of his eyes to steam in again and uproot middle - no quibbling about that. He also removed Ball and Aneesh Kapil picked up two tail-end wickets to continue a decent first outing. Modest signs of encouragement may be what Surrey have to make do with for now.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick