Lancashire 308 (Crook 3-28) and 19 for 0 need a further 395 runs to beat Northamptonshire 438 and 283 for 9 dec (Duckett 88, Cobb 52*)
Northamptonshire wrested control of their Championship Division Two clash with Lancashire after an entertaining third day at Old Trafford which saw 15 wickets fall in the Manchester heat. Lancashire now face an uphill struggle to save a game which gradually ebbed away from them as both bowlers and fielders tired on a long and stifling afternoon for the league leaders.
By the close, they still required 395 runs for an unlikely victory having been set 414 runs to win - a distant target which would be their record fourth innings total, beating the 404 for 5 they made in 1910 to beat Hampshire at Southampton.
Much of the damage was done in a dreadful morning session for the hosts as their hopes of at least matching Northamptonshire's impressive first-innings total of 438 were dashed after the visitors took the new ball.
Inroads were quickly made as first James Faulkner edged Azharullah to second slip before skipper Steven Croft chopped a delivery from Steven Crook on to his stumps for 25. Crook, a former Lancashire player, was to enjoy a triumphant return to his old stomping ground, as Croft became the first of his three victims in a spell which saw both Jordan Clark and Tom Bailey also play on to their wickets.
When Simon Kerrigan skied an attempted hook shot off Azharullah to Josh Cobb for 2, Lancashire had lost their last six wickets for 51 runs and conceded a first-innings lead of 130 to their newly upbeat opponents.
An early breakthrough for Lancashire added to the drama of the opening session as Kyle Coetzer mistimed a pull behind to Alex Davies for 5 to leave Northants 31 for 1 at the break with a lead of 161.
Wickets fell regularly throughout a middle session dominated by 20-year-old Ben Duckett who appeared to be playing a different game from his fellow batsmen as he moved towards his second century of the match.
At the other end, Lancashire's bowlers enjoyed some success for their toil in the heat, with Kerrigan bowling Northants captain Alex Wakely for 9, before Australian James Faulkner found himself on a hat-trick for the second time in the game after dismissing Rob Keogh and Richard Levi, both lbw, in successive deliveries.
When Adam Rossington was unlucky to be given out caught at short leg by Steven Croft off the bowling of Arron Lilley, Lancashire could sniff a slight chance at 110 for 5 with the lead still under 250. But Duckett soon snuffed out any hope of a Lancashire recovery as he moved to 88, before inexplicably hitting Lilley straight to Ashwell Prince at mid-on when a century seemed inevitable.
After tea, 113 more runs were added as some lusty blows from Josh Cobb, Crook and Olly Stone combined with some weary fielding from Lancashire allowed Northants to declare on 283 for 9 before the hosts negotiated a tricky period of six overs to finish on 19 without loss.