Durham, the bottom side in the second division of the Specsavers County Championship, outplayed promotion hopefuls Sussex until tea at Hove, before the home side counter-attacked thrillingly in the final session.
Resuming on 259 for five on the second morning, Durham went on to make 384 and then reduced Sussex to 96 for five at tea before David Wiese and Delroy Rawlins cheered up local supporters with some spirited strokeplay in the lengthening shadows.
Sussex took the new ball at the start of play, intent on making up for some missed opportunities on the opening day. But the bowling was wayward – of the first 31 runs in the morning only 13 came off the bat.
Durham captain Cameron Bancroft and Ned Eckersley went on and on and when Bancroft went down the pitch and drove Luke Wells for four shortly before lunch it took the partnership to 281. That set a new sixth wicket record for the club, beating the 278 shared between Michael Richardson and Stuart Poynter at Derby last year.
Then Sussex battled back, taking the last five Durham wickets for 12 runs in 32 deliveries. Two balls after the partnership record was broken, Wells took a sharp return catch to dismiss Eckersley, whose 118 came from 237 balls, with 14 fours. It was his first championship century for two years.
In the following over, Bancroft was out. Attempting to sweep, he was lbw to Rawlins for 158, from 305 balls, with 13 fours and a six. Rawlins and Will Beer wrapped up the innings. Slow left-armer Rawlins finished with three for 19 – the first time he had taken more than one wicket in an innings.
The Sussex top order, without the injured Phil Salt and with others out of form, has been misfiring and here they were soon two for three after 25 balls.
Wells hung out his bat and nicked Chris Rushworth to first slip, Beer was lbw to a yorker from Brydon Carse and Harry Finch was also lbw, failing to get forward to a pitched up delivery from Rushsworth for a duck.
Laurie Evans looked in prime form before he was caught down the leg-side off James Weighell for 20. And just before tea key batsman Stiaan van Zyl was bowled off stump by Gareth Harte for 34.
Ben Brown was caught at mid-on off the second ball after tea and when Chris Jordan was caught at slip for six Sussex were 110-7.
But then the fun started for Sussex. Experienced all-rounder Wiese and the clearly gifted left-handed strokemaker Rawlins counter-attacked with brio. Rawlings reached his third first-class fifty with a huge six over long-on, his second, to go with six fours. They put on 109, an eighth wicket record between these two sides, before Wiese fell for 56. Sussex closed on 231-9, 153 behind.
Rawlins said: “My opportunity to play came about through an injury. I don’t like to see injuries but it was nice to get the opportunity, to cash in and get some runs and wickets. David Wiese has been there all year, with bat and ball, and he made it easier for me to play. We managed to put ourselves in a better position than we were when I came to the crease.
“We were struggling a bit. But when Durham batted they were in trouble before a couple of guys put together a partnership. We decided to be positive and if there was something there we liked, we hit it. And it came off for the two of us.
“With the bowling, it’s been coming out quite nicely in the past few weeks. And the wicket assisted me a little bit. I’m still working on my red ball game. We need to come back in the morning and bat normally. I found out Sunday morning that I was playing, when Dizzy [Gillespie] phoned me. It was a bit of a shock to me. Playing wasn’t on my radar. But it’s nice to get the opportunity.”