A tense final day could be in store in the LV= Insurance County Championship at Canterbury, where Northamptonshire lead Kent by 252, having reached 284-5 at stumps, aided by an unbeaten 101 from Ryan Rickelton.
On a see-sawing day at the St. Lawrence, Kent were all out for 335 after adding just 48 to their overnight score for a modest lead of 32. Jack White took four for 62 and Ben Sanderson four for 63, while Jordan Cox was the top scorer with 72.
The hosts then reduced Northamptonshire to 64 for three, but a stand of 158 between Rickelton and Jimmy Neesham batted them out of immediate danger.
Neesham’s powerful 91 came from just 100 balls and having started Day 3 as underdogs, Northamptonshire now look a strong bet for at least a draw on the final day.
The hosts had ended Day 2 eyeing a substantial lead after closing on 287 for five, but Northamptonshire mopped up their final five wickets in little over an hour.
Cox was the first man to go, having added just nine to his overnight score of 63 when he left a straight one to White and found his off stump cartwheeling behind him.
George Linde then edged a Sanderson delivery through the slips for the four that put Kent in the lead but it was his only scoring shot as he nicked the same bowler behind in his next over.
Grant Stewart went for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it seven, hooking Sanderson to White at fine leg and when Sam Billings edged White to Ricardo Vasconcelos at first slip for 44, he repeatedly jabbed his bat into the ground in frustration.
Showing little faith in the number 11 Matt Quinn, Matt Milnes then holed out to Sanderson and was caught by Josh Cobb for four.
Northamptonshire slashed Kent’s lead to five by the lunch interval, but they lost Emilio Gay soon after, when he got a leading edge to Grant Stewart and was caught by Ben Compton.
Stewart then snared Vasconcelos, who was the victim of a tumbling catch by Billings for 19 and with Luke Procter suffering from a sore foot, Rob Keogh was the next man in. When he was given out caught behind for 13, trying to hook Daniel Bell-Drummond, Northamptonshire looked in some trouble but Rickelton and Neesham turned the game with a stand that lasted over two hours.
While Rickelton paced himself, Neesham thundered his way past 50, the Kiwi regularly taking the aerial option with an innings that included 11 fours and 2 towering sixes. He fell just nine short of a sixth first-class century when he offered Denly a low return catch.
Josh Cobb then came in for a quickfire innings of 26, which ended when Zak Crawley held a sharp slip catch off Linde, before Rickelton reached his second century for Northamptonshire in as many matches just before the close with a straight drive off Stewart for two and while all results remain possible, the visitors will be far happier at the end of day three than they were at the start of it.