Four quick wickets in the closing overs of the third day have put Sussex in a strong position to beat Somerset and virtually secure runners-up spot in the LV= County Championship.
Marcus Trescothick and Arul Suppiah had given Somerset’s own hopes of finishing second behind new champions Warwickshire a boost with a stand of 147 for the first wicket after the visitors had been set 396 to win in five sessions.
But Trescothick (71) was bowled off an inside edge trying to hit Monty Panesar over long-on and, eight balls later, Suppiah (70), was held at the second attempt by Matt Prior at second slip to give the exemplary Steve Magoffin the first of three quick wickets.
Nightwatchman Steve Kirby needed treatment after he was hit on the helmet by Magoffin’s bouncer, before the Australian struck again when his nip-backer bowled Chris Jones and he had Kirby taken at short leg as Somerset lost four wickets for four runs.
They reached 155-4 at stumps, still needing another 241 runs to win.
A contest when batting collapses have been the norm witnessed another during the morning session when Sussex lost six wickets in 15 overs for 40 runs.
Among those to go was Murray Goodwin, who fell 23 short of a century in his final appearance for Sussex. Goodwin departed to a standing ovation, accompanied by his sons, after a career which saw him score more than 20,000 runs for the county. It was later announced that his number three shirt would be retired.
He was one of Alfonso Thomas’s victims as the Somerset paceman took 5-68 – his second five-wicket haul of the season.
Thomas had earlier removed Chris Nash for 126, leaving him 23 short of reaching 1,000 runs for the season, after Nash had added 183 in 58 overs for the third wicket with Goodwin.
Both were taken with the old ball and Thomas proved just as effective with the new, having Ben Brown lbw and bowling Mike Yardy off a bottom edge, while Prior was run out after a mix-up with Goodwin.
Sussex were all out for 308 just after lunch, leaving Somerset 396 to win.
It appeared to be a tall order on a pitch offering occasional uneven bounce and Trescothick and Suppiah had to survive a testing spell from Magoffin, who did not concede a run until his sixth over while his 11 overs with the new ball yielded just eight runs and included eight maidens.
Runs were easier to accumulate at the other end and Sussex skipper Ed Joyce turned to Nash’s occasional off-spin in search of a breakthrough, but after tea Suppiah passed 50 for the seventh time this season and Trescothick for the second occasion in a summer ruined by injury,
Trescothick’s 71 came off 116 balls with 11 fours while Suppiah faced 149 deliveries for his 70 with eight boundaries and a pulled six off Panesar.