Warwickshire 219 and 12 for 0 lead Lancashire 152 (Croft 45, Barker 4-30) by 79 runs
On what is likely to be a pitch of diminishing returns, you would expect Warwickshire's lead of 67 on first innings to have given them a better than even chance of winning, which they must do if they are to be sure of avoiding relegation for the first time since 2007.
The news for Lancashire is not so good. Lose here and a Hampshire win would send them down.
Intriguingly, Warwickshire were relegated that year at Old Trafford, beaten by nine wickets in what would be Mark Greatbatch's last match as coach. They bounced straight back, winning the Division Two title under Greatbatch's successor, Ashley Giles.
Giles, now Lancashire's coach, will be reasonably confident that his new side will be capable of something similar should they go down, although he has been having trouble convincing some disgruntled Lancastrians that they should share his optimism and enthusiasm.
Three wins in the first five Championship matches led some of them to believe there was a serious chance they could be going toe-to-toe with their rivals from across the Pennines, so no wins in 10 subsequently has come as something of a let-down.
Yet by other measures, Giles can claim an outstanding season, given that his brief was to dismantle an ageing team and restock it with vibrant youth. This season, three of the four young players to whom he has given first-class debuts - Liam Livingstone, Rob Jones, Matthew Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood - have made a first-class century or taken five wickets in an innings. And Haseeb Hameed, introduced only in August last year, is already on the brink of a Test call-up.
A draw here would quieten the natives in any event, guaranteeing that Lancashire finish ahead of Warwickshire and therefore not in the bottom two, even if Hampshire win. It is going to take some getting, though.
Dismissing Warwickshire for 219 did not look a bad effort but, after reaching 134 for 5 midway through the afternoon session, Lancashire's reply fell away rapidly as the combination of Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel claimed the last five wickets with only 18 added to the total.
Lancashire supporters began to feel twitchy in the 10th over of the day after the introduction of Rikki Clarke in the first change of the morning drew a quick dividend for Warwickshire, the big one as far as they were concerned, when Hameed was leg before trying to flick one off his legs.
In the blink of an eye 35 for 1 became 37 for 4, Chris Wright striking in consecutive overs to remove Jones and Karl Brown with a couple more lbws. On a hazy morning with still plenty of cloud there was clearly something in the conditions for Warwickshire's bowlers to exploit and when Lancashire lost Luke Procter, the left-hander succumbing to a beautiful outswinger from Barker that drew him into the drive and took the edge, they had lost four wickets for four runs in 35 deliveries.
This was followed by a recovery of sorts engineered by Steven Croft and Livingstone, who have both looked to be aggressive. Yet that recovery was punctured in the last over of the morning when Livingstone whipped one off his pads against Oliver Hannon-Dalby only to plonk it straight into the hands of Barker at shortish midwicket, leaving Lancashire to take lunch contemplating where they might go from 79 for 5.
In the event they rebuilt promisingly, Croft and Jordan Clark continuing to push the score along and adding 55 in 18 overs before Barker, coming round the wicket, bowled Croft with one came back as he shaped to play him off the back foot. Croft's 45, the second highest innings of the match so far, was a good innings in the circumstances, a positive counter-attacking effort that made the scorecard look somewhat healthier.
But this breakthrough gave Patel his first sight of a long Lancashire tail and there are few spin bowlers more adept at cleaning up when conditions are in his favour, the New Zealand off-spinner bamboozling Arron Lilley before having Tom Bailey caught sharply at leg slip by Ian Bell.
Barker then claimed a give-away wicket when Clark swung at him with more hope than control and finished by uprooting Kyle Jarvis's off-stump to finish with 4 for 30, taking his haul for the season to 58 in Division One, eight behind Patel, who leads the field with 66.
It is the quality, variety and experience that makes up the Warwickshire attack that will probably see them across the line, although there is no escaping the more sobering statistic of their season, which is that they have won only two matches, the same number as Hampshire and one fewer than Lancashire. If they did go down, it would hardly be an injustice.
Warwickshire had added 12 to their lead without loss when bad light, quickly followed by rain, prevented further play.