Ashwell Prince's first century of the season enabled Lancashire to recover from a tricky opening session and finish the first day of their LV= Division One match against Kent respectably placed on 317-9.
After 96 overs of absorbing cricket which provided a wonderful showcase for the range of fluctuations which only the first-class and Test fomats can provide, Glen Chapple's team probably hold a wafer-thin advantage over opponents who had invited them to have first use of an Old Trafford wicket containing plenty of early life.
At one stage, the Red Rose team were perilously placed on 86-4; nearly three hours later Prince and Steven Croft's 144-run fifth-wicket partnership - only four shy of the county record gainst Kent, set by Peter Marner and Ken Grieves at Gravesend in 1953 - had put their side in a position approaching dominance; but Prince's run out for 115 was followed by the loss of four further wickets before the close, the last of them Croft's, when the 25-year-old was just seven short of his second first-class hundred.
But if Croft was disappointed by his failure to reach three figures, he will be delighted by his excellent start to the season. This was his fourth successive fifty in Championship cricket this year and he is plainly in excellent form.
For his part, Prince made no attempt to disguise his pleasure at having helped extricate his team from a tough situation against his former Test team-mate Makhaya Ntini.
"The way things were going this morning with the ball nipping around, it was very satisfying to be able to come up with a good score," he said. "For someone who only stepped off the plane yesterday, Makhaya was bowling really well and Kent were making it hard for us to score.
"There was variable bounce too, which made it tough, and I was just glad to stick in there. The surfaces tend to do a little bit more at the start of the season and if you lose a few wickets early on, the important thing is not to panic. The new ball will get people out and you just have to get a partnership going."
Prince's analysis crisply reflects events in the middle on the first morning. Openers Tom Smith and Stephen Moore both fell to the skilful new-ball bowling of Ntini and Amjad Khan, and when Darren Stevens defeated Paul Horton's defensive stroke with a delivery which kept a little low, Lancashire seemed on course for a disappointing total.
"My partnership [41 for the third wicket] with Horts got our momentum going a little bit, and when Crofty came in after lunch, I knew that he had been in excellent form this season," said Prince. "It was just disappointing for us that he couldn't get his hundred. He really deserved it, but at least by then our partnership had got us going.
"Crofty has shown that he's a gutsy player who doesn't take a backward step. I'm sure he'd like to turn those fifties into hundreds, but he's been making great contributions to the team and I'm sure those hundreds will come."
"It's a good effort to get beyond 300 and it will be interesting to see how they go tomorrow when we have the new ball in our hands. And you never know, maybe we might sneak up to 350 before that !"
Perhaps only Prince made batting look remotely straightforward during the morning session, and even he needed Kentish generosity when Joe Denly dropped a straighforward catch at point off Amjad Khan.
The South African had made 18 when he received that let-off, and he had pulled Khan for a six into the pavilion off the previous delivery, but the key to success in the 28 overs before the interval was watchful resistance rather than expansive shotmaking.
Lancashire's fortunes reached their lowest point five overs after lunch when Mark Chilton was beaten by Ntini's bounce and edged to Martin van Jaarsveld at second slip.
For the rest of the afternoon session Prince and Croft batted with increasing assurance as the pitch eased, and the pair had taken their stand to 92 at tea.
Both batsmen had their alarms, Prince edging his former team-mate Ntini over slips and Croft surviving an impassioned lbw shout from the same bowler. Yet the balance of the early stages of this contest clearly shifted as Kent's support bowlers initially failed to match the incision achieved by their new-ball pair.
When Kent achieved their much needed breakthrough, it came via a brilliant throw from deep mid-wicket Denly which ran out Prince for 115, and it also marked an important shift in the shape of the game.
Although Glen Chapple contributed a typically attacking 27, the Kent attack held the whip hand in the closing stages of the day's play. Darren Stevens' accuracy earmed him three wickets in eight balls, including that of Croft for a 164-ball 93, as Lancashire's hopes of adding to their three batting bonus points declined.
Paul Edwards at Old Trafford
Photos: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd