Neil Dexter's unbeaten 77 guided Middlesex to 280 for seven on a hard-fought first day of the LV= County Championship Division One derby against Surrey at the Kia Oval.
Dexter's innings allowed Middlesex to shade the opening exchanges despite the best efforts of Gary Keedy, Surrey's 38-year-old left-arm spinner, who took 3-61 from 25 overs.
Dawid Malan and Chris Rogers also hit half-centuries for fourth-placed Middlesex, who after last week's shock home defeat to Somerset must seemingly win their last three matches if they are to have any chance of taking the championship title.
Surrey are second from bottom after beating Derbyshire on Sunday and believe two wins from their last four games - especially if that includes winning against Somerset at Taunton next week - will be enough to save them from dropping into Division Two.
Early strikes with the new ball by Jade Dernbach and Tim Linley gave Surrey the start they craved after Middlesex had won the toss and decided to bat.
Rogers, Malan and Dexter each threatened to take control before being pegged back by some determined bowling and fielding.
Keedy's three-wicket spell after tea then stifled Middlesex's progress until Dexter, joined by James Harris to see out the last 45 minutes, held firm.
At stumps Dexter had batted for 210 balls, hitting seven fours in almost four hours at the crease.
The match began with Rogers easing the first ball, from Dernbach, through the covers for four but the bowler then had Sam Robson caught behind for a duck in his second over.
Joe Denly made it to 12 before edging a defensive push at a good one from Linley to third slip, where Vikram Solanki took a low tumbling catch to his right.
Rogers and Malan flourished in a third-wicket partnership of 93, but their stand ended in the first over after lunch.
Having reached 55 from 89 balls with 11 fours, Rogers was called through for a single by Malan but sharp work from Dernbach at mid-off saw the veteran run-out at the striker’s end.
Keedy, brought on for the 41st over with the score 155 for three, immediately found some turn but was made to wait until the first over after tea for his initial success.
By then, Malan's fluent innings of 61 from 99 deliveries had been cut short by Linley, who angled one across the left-hander to have him caught at second slip by Zander de Bruyn.
Linley had also had Malan dropped by Gareth Batty at first slip on 59, but it was Keedy who got among the Middlesex lower-middle order until Dexter and Harris stopped the rot.
John Simpson mishit a sweep to square-leg; Gareth Berg thin-edged to Davies and Ollie Rayner, also playing defensively, edged to de Bruyn at slip.
Chris Tremlett was rested by Surrey to allow fellow fast bowler Stuart Meaker to make a comeback after a three-month absence with a knee injury.
Five players - Surrey’s Gary Wilson and Middlesex quartet Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling - were unavailable due to their involvement in the one-day international between Ireland and England at Malahide.