Half-centuries from Stephen Peters and Kyle Coetzer ensured newly-promoted Northamptonshire's LV= County Championship clash with champions Durham was competitively poised after two days at Wantage Road.
Phil Mustard's 91 and fifties from veteran Gareth Breese and Jamie Harrison took Durham to 452 in their first innings.
James Middlebrook launched the reply with a swift 43, and Northamptonshire made solid progress to reach 200 for three at the close.
Neither Coetzer, who made 53, or captain Peters, out for 51, could make it through to stumps as Graham Onions and Harrison earned reward for some lively seam bowling.
But Matthew Spriegel and Rob Newton held firm to the close of play to keep the hosts in the game.
Durham started the day on 265 for five and upped the pace of their innings considerably, but there was to be no century for Mustard, who has not reached three figures for his county since 2011.
The wicketkeeper played expansively to advance from his overnight 63, but his 185-ball knock came to an end when he gloved a catch behind when attempting to leave a Steven Crook delivery.
That ended a sixth-wicket stand of 116 with Breese, who took up the attack in style with a fine 62.
He was well supported by Usman Arshad, who made 20 and had faced 111 balls when he was stumped sharply down the leg side by David Murphy off Andrew Hall.
The tail continued to wag well and Harrison increased the tempo further to reach his maiden first-class half-century. He hit nine fours and two sixes in a quickfire 65 from 62 balls.
Both maximums came off Muhammad Azhar Ullah, but the Northamptonshire paceman had the final say as he bowled Harrison, who was attempting another big hit.
Chris Rushworth was the last man out, giving Azhar figures of 3-16 when he was caught at deep square-leg, leaving Onions unbeaten on 23.
Onions then took up his role with the ball and troubled both opening batsmen, but Peters and Middlebrook initially resisted.
Middlebrook was the more forceful, hitting eight fours, but he failed to make the most of the reprieve Keaton Jennings gave him when he slipped lining up a catch in the deep.
Two balls later Middlebrook nicked left-armer Harrison to Scott Borthwick at second slip.
Borthwick showed safe hands again in the same position when Onions found Peters' leading edge.
Scotland batsman Coetzer became Harrison's second victim when he was caught behind by Mustard.