A career-best performance from Alex Hughes turned almost certain defeat into possible victory as Derbyshire staged a remarkable recovery in the Division Two match against Gloucestershire at Derby.
The 24-year-old all-rounder scored 140 from 209 balls in only his third first-class game of the season to raise Derbyshire’s hopes of a first Championship win of the summer.
Neil Broom shared a century stand with Hughes and, although Craig Miles took 4 for 82, Gloucestershire became increasingly ragged as Tom Milnes smashed a career-best 56 from 53 balls and Harvey Hosein an unbeaten 52 before the home side were dismissed for 360.
That left Gloucestershire with a victory target of 272, which they reduced by 10 in five overs before the close.
The chance of Derbyshire taking the game much beyond lunch had looked slim when Miles struck twice in his opening over of the day with the home side still 38 runs behind.
Callum Parkinson had batted through the first 80 minutes of the morning to frustrate the bowlers, taking a blow on the helmet from David Payne in the process, and it took a good ball from Miles to find his outside edge in the 17th over of the morning.
Miles produced an even better delivery that lifted nastily at Wayne Madsen who could only fend the ball to gully to bag a pair for only the second time in his career and at that stage, Gloucestershire would have been looking to be on the road by mid-afternoon.
By the time Broom chopped Miles into his stumps 20 overs after lunch, Derbyshire were well in credit and the lead continued to grow as Hughes drove Josh Shaw through the covers for his 15th four to reach his second first-class hundred.
Instead expectation slowly turned to desperation as Hughes and Broom began a fightback that asked questions the bowlers could not answer.
Matt Critchley played some expansive strokes to add 58 for the sixth wicket until he tried a ramp shot at Jack Taylor shortly before tea but the game ran away from Gloucestershire in the final session.
Hughes lifted Taylor over long on for six and had turned a deficit of 73 into a lead of 172 when he was lbw reverse-sweeping Chris Dent.
Gloucestershire took the second new ball immediately but Hosein and Milnes plundered some poor bowling in the late afternoon sunshine with both players passing 50 before Miles took the last wicket.
But the momentum was now with Derbyshire who will fancy their chances of winning a Championship game at home for the first time in two years if the rain stays away tomorrow.
Speaking after his ton, Alex Hughes said: "I've been struggling to get into side so to get a place at number three which is not something I've done before I looked at as an opportunity instead of something that's going to be hard and I thought if I can get in I could make a big score.
"That's what I've tried to do today and I'm absolutely buzzing it's come off. I've batted at six and seven but I've got a chance at three and I've seen other people do it around the country.