By Glen Robertson at the Emirates Durham ICG
Durham need just 62 more runs against Nottinghamshire over the final two days to secure a third LV= County Championship in six seasons.
Having won the second of those titles with an innings-defeat of Nottinghamshire on their home turf, the hosts entered day two with thoughts of repeating the feat, but half-centuries from Steven Mullaney and David Hussey ensured they would have to bat again for the victory.
Set 69 runs to win after skittling out Nottinghamshire in their second innings for 256, Durham openers Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings ended their one over seven without loss before turning down the extra half-hour to try and wrap it up tonight.
Even with rain forecast for much of tomorrow, the Division One leaders felt two days were more than enough to reach the paltry target.
Resuming 43 runs short of a second batting point, that would mean a victory would secure the title regardless of Yorshire’s result, Paul Collingwood and Jamie Harrison reduced the equation to just 11 runs before the latter was rapped on the pads by Steven Mullaney.
The visitors took new ball nine runs later in a bid to force the final wicket and a Collingwood misjudgement left Chris Rushworth on strike with the score on 249.
But the Durham number 11 immediately found the third-man boundary to secure the point, before falling to birthday boy Luke Fletcher in the next over - leaving the hosts with a lead of 178 and Collingwood unbeaten on a season-best 88.
Graham Onions signalled Durham’s intent in the opening over, beating Mullaney with the first delivery and having two lbw appeals turned down.
Mullaney than edged just short of third slip in the fourth over off Rushworth but soon settled down with the ball not moving as much as it did on day one.
Just as it appeared the Notts duo were comfortable, Rushworth had Riki Wessels caught at third slip for 11, extending Durham’s remarkable record of not conceding an opening partnership of 50 in the championship all season.
Mullaney received a life on 14 when he was dropped by wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, sprawling to his right in front of the slips, off Onions in the 13th.
But he and Michael Lumb offered no further chances before lunch and the pair continued to frustrate Durham in the afternoon, passing the 27th over - the length of their entire first innings - on 59 for one.
It was Onions who eventually made the breakthrough, trapping Lumb leg before for for 28, yet Mullaney remained steadfast and went on to complete a 125-ball half-century.
Durham received a scare as Ben Stokes pulled up with a jarred toe in the 42nd over, although Rushworth struck soon after, removing James Taylor's leg stump with one that nipped back.
Scott Borthwick then dropped Mullaney going full-length to his left, diving in front of Collingwood at first slip, just before tea but Durham came out in the evening session revitalised.
Mullaney was lbw to Onions for 72 before Samit Patel edged Harrison to second slip and Chris Read did not last long prior to being caught behind.
Paul Franks and David Hussey added a 59-run partnership to ensure Notts would have to bat again. However, with thoughts turning to a third day, Borthwick bowled Franks for 29 with the first ball of his spell, after which Andre Adams was caught in the deep off Stokes.
Fletcher added a brisk 20, only to edge behind off Borthwick and Hussey eventually fell to Stokes for 57 to set Durham 69 to win.