Northants require 161 runs on the final day of their Specsavers County Championship encounter with Durham at the Emirates Riverside to secure a third win of the season.
Set 205 to win, Northants had 12 overs to face in the evening light and lost first innings century-maker Max Holden to the third ball of their second innings when he edged Paul Coughlin to second slip.
Keaton Jennings, who dropped him there yesterday, held on comfortably, but Rob Newton and Alex Wakely took Northants to 44 for one at the close.
It could ahve been quite a different total is not for a maiden century by Cameron Steel, which kept Durham afloat in the match. Staring down the barrel when variable bounce in the first hour saw them lose three wickets, Durham recovered from 98 for four to make 376.
Steel was on 94 when Northants turned to the occasional left-arm spin of Chesney Hughes and his first ball, a juicy full toss, was whacked over long-on for six.
The second 50 in Steel's 166-ball hundred came off only 63 deliveries and a second six followed off another Hughes full toss before the 21-year-old batsman knuckled down against the second new ball.
It was in its 19th over when he was lbw for 128, attempting a whip to leg off Azharullah, who went on to take all the last five wickets.
Durham were still 74 adrift with six wickets standing when Steel was joined by Paul Collingwood, but after being dropped by Hughes at slip on nought the skipper contributed 54 to a stand of 143.
He was unable to cash in on a stroke of fortune on 50 when a ball from Rory Kleinveldt nipped back and brushed the off stump. Collingwood started to walk before realising the bail, although slightly dislodged, had not come off.
After Steel's exit Durham still looked like pushing on to a bigger lead as Ryan Pringle and Coughlin began to play shots against the flagging attack.
Holden had to take over behind the stumps when Adam Rossington suffered a hand injury and the substitute fielder, Richard Gleeson, ran in ten yards before diving forward to catch Coughlin at deep backward square.
Pringle, who hit eight fours, was left stranded on 47 when Stuart Poynter edged an airy drive to second slip and Gavin Main was pinned lbw by Azharullah, who finished with five for 72.