Durham off spinner Ryan Pringle reduced Hampshire’s Specsavers County Championship Division One survival hopes by grabbing his second career five-for at the Ageas Bowl.
Pringle was the nemesis for Hampshire as they capitulated on the third day, with the wily turner restricting them to a lead of just 226.
The hosts had been on a quest for quick runs to set up a hefty total for Durham to attempt to chase on the final day.
It had started well as Jimmy Adams and Will Smith smashed the new ball around the large Ageas Bowl boundaries.
The pair put on 50 in 9.4 overs before Adams was caught at Graham Onions short fine leg while attempting to sweep leg-spinner Scott Borthwick.
From then on it was the Pringle show, as he forced a furious Tom Alsop to poke across his body to Paul Collingwood at first slip an over later.
James Vince soon followed when Pringle clipped the top of his off stump with a big gyrator – on a pitch specially designed to help Hampshire’s spinners Mason Crane and Liam Dawson force a result, with a sandy top giving consistent spin.
Smith, who had started valiantly but quickly forced into a bubble, departed for 30 as he popped into short leg Keaton Jennings’ hands.
The collapse continued, after a respite of 23 runs, when Sean Ervine hesitated through a drive, which plugged to extra cover.
Ryan McLaren quickly followed when he was lbw to give Pringle a first five-for of the season – coming in a magnificent 45-ball spell from the Pavilion End.
But Liam Dawson and Lewis McManus set up a nail-biting final day with a 57-run fightback, before Dawson was caught by man of the moment Pringle, while McManus ended the day unbeaten on 41.
The day could not have gone much worse for Hampshire, who knew a win would guarantee their top flight safety.
A morning washed out by easterly drifting rain and a subsequent two-hour-and-seven-minute frustration as they attempted to prise the final three Durham wickets.
Michael Richardson was the chief agitator as he hit his highest score of the season, although cruelly missed out on a first three figure score of the 2016.
Unmoveable Richardson, who was unbeaten on 50 overnight, batted in a careful and considered manner – with regular balls from Dawson and Crane missing the outside of his bat.
He was accompanied in a 79-run stand with Brydon Carse and then 86 partnership with Graham Onions – the former broken when Carse edged Dawson to first slip, the second when Brad Wheal bagged his fourth wicket of the innings when Onions was caught at short leg.
Richardson was then left shocked at the non-strikers end when Chris Rushworth missed an adventurous sweep shot to fall lbw. He became the first Durham man to be left stranded on 99 – as Hampshire had a first innings lead of 50.
Hampshire director of cricket Giles White commented after play: “We will bat tomorrow, see how many we can get and set them something. Hopefully we can bat for an hour and see where we are.
“We feel if we get the right target for Durham they will go for it and give us opportunities to pick up wickets throughout the way.”
Durham spinner Ryan Pringle said: “We grafted really hard batting to keep us in the game, the game was getting away from us at one point.
“That 40-odd overs there has left the game in the balance, it should be a good day.
“I predict no draw, Durham win tomorrow, seven down, just after lunch so the bus journey isn’t too long.”