Lancashire will have to pull out all the stops if they are to avoid LV= County Championship defeat against Sussex at Liverpool following another frustrating day.
The Red Rose county, who last lost their opening game of a season in 1998 when Sussex beat them at Hove, are firmly on the back foot after Michael Yardy and Steve Magoffin starred for the visitors on day two.
Yardy hit his 18th first-class century - a determined and watchful 110 - to help glean a first innings lead of 176 before experienced Australian fast bowler Magoffin ripped through Lancashire's top order in their second innings.
Magoffin picked up the wickets of Stephen Moore and Karl Brown in the space of two balls in the tenth over before removing Paul Horton to leave the hosts wobbling at 39-3 in the 14th.
Ashwell Prince and Luke Procter, who had earlier completed an impressive three-wicket haul, made sure there were no further alarms by taking their side to 85-4 from 33 overs. With Prince 31 not out, Lancashire will begin tomorrow still 91 behind.
"We're behind the eight ball a bit, and we have some work to do," said Lancashire coach Peter Moores. “Sussex have played a bit better than we have.
“We lost wickets to some good bowling from Magoffin in the second innings, and we need a big partnership like they had with Yardy and Joyce, get a lead and then put them under pressure. It will be difficult, but not impossible.
“Last year our tail played really well with the bat. It didn’t fire in the first innings, but we hope it does in the second."
Yardy, resuming day two on 70, and opener Ed Joyce continued their frustrating fourth-wicket stand, which eventually totalled 164 when Joyce fell to Procter for 64 this morning, caught at second slip by Stephen Moore.
The Sussex skipper, who reached 50 off 60 balls on Thursday night, brought up three figures off a further 82 balls. He finished with 110 from 171, including nine fours.
But the former England one-day man was helped out by two dropped catches in the Lancashire slip cordon whilst on 85 and 98. Moore dropped the first one off Glen Chapple's bowling at second slip before Horton dropped the second one at first slip off Mahmood.
They were two of four dropped catches from Lancashire, with wicketkeeper Gareth Cross and Horton again the other culprits.
Moores continued: "We practice catches very hard, but you have to accept in the slips you are going to drop some. There is no criticism, they were tough chances.
"I don't think it was the cold weather. I think, if anything, they were all quite low. The slips were quite tight because some didn't carry and then the odd one flies through. On another day they'd stick, today they didn't."
Lancashire were impressive during the afternoon session with the ball. Chapple, Procter and Simon Kerrigan shared six wickets at Sussex fell from 224-4.
The trio contributed to ten maidens being bowled in the first 17 overs of the day's middle session, with Sussex only scoring 13 runs in that period and losing two wickets to Kerrigan's left-arm spin.
Kerrigan had Yardy neatly stumped by Cross after a moment's delay and Joe Gatting caught behind before Chapple had Magoffin and Ben Brown caught in the slips by Horton and Moore.
Amjad Khan and James Anyon shared a frustrating ninth-wicket stand of 43 before Procter wrapped up the innings by bowling Amjad and getting Monty Panesar caught by Prince at third slip.
Procter finished with figures of 3-48 from 16 overs.
Magoffin then made full use of the new ball by removing Moore, who edged to Yardy at first slip, and Brown lbw for a golden duck with successive balls in the tenth over of Lancashire's second innings.
The experienced Queenslander, a recent Sheffield Shield winner with his home state, then had Horton caught in the slips shortly afterwards. And, when Panesar bowled Steven Croft off the inside edge, Lancashire were 49-4 in the 18th.
Prince and Procter then ensured there was a healthier look to the scoreboard at close.
Moores added: "We're still in it because we've got a couple of batters in there who we know are playing well. Crossy didn't feature first innings, but he is playing well. Hopefully we can fire.
"We need to get a lot more runs yet. But, always at Liverpool, if you can get two people in, it can look quite straightforward really. Then wickets go in clumps. We need to get people in, bat long and see where it takes us."
Day 1 Report
Photos (c) Clint Hughes & Barry Mitchell
Article (c) Lancashire CCC