Former England opening batsman Nick Compton scored his first century for Middlesex since rejoining the county from Somerset to leave his side's LV=County Championship match with Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl heading towards a stalemate.
In reply to Hampshire's first innings total of 413 after being put in , Middlesex recovered from a potentially parlous position to reach 362 all out in their first innings, a deficit of 51. Hampshire ended the third day at four without loss.
Resuming at 102 for three, at one stage it looked as if leaders Middlesex might even have to follow-on against a side still seeking their first win of the season following promotion. After captain James Franklin had been leg before wicket to Fidel Edwards for eight at 117, Neil Dexter went the same way to ex Middlesex bowler Gareth Berg at 152 so that half the batting was one and a further 102 was needed to make Hampshire bat again.
It was then that Compton took control of a vital stand of 59 for the sixth wicket with John Simpson as the danger receded. Simpson was sixth out at 211, driving Sean Ervine to Michael Carberry at extra cover, but by then Compton was on his way to his century. Compton batted in total for six hours and his innings was a precious one for his side, ending in anti-climax pushing forward to spinner Liam Dawson at 269.
Almost exactly two years ago Compton was making the last of his nine Test appearances for England at Headingley. Here he faced 237 balls and hit 17 fours as Middlesex escaped the prospect of following-on with something to spare. James Harris was eighth out at 270 fending a short, fast delivery from Edwards to James Vince at third slip, but the resistence was not over.
Ollie Rayner harvested 29 rapid runs before Edwards had him caught behind but then last pair Toby Roland-Jones and Steve Finn frustrated Hampshire with an obdurate stand of 75. Roland-Jones raced to his half-century as Hampshire shuffled their bowling in vain and reached 61, in sight of his career-best 77, before he lifted Ervine into the deep where Brad Wheal held the catch. Roland-Jones struck nine fours in his unexpected cameo but the longer he and Finn were holding up Hampshire, the less likely a positive result became.
Both captains, Franklin and Hampshire's Jimmy Adams are faced with the difficult task of attempting to fashion a finish after only two innings had been completed over the first three days. Edwards was the most successful of the Hampshire bowlers, deriving pace and lift from an awkward wicket and finishing with figures of 4-100 while Ervine took 3-37 with his medium pace.
Compton revealed later he still had England ambitions. ''My desire to play for England burns as brightly as ever. I want to prove that I am still a force to be reckoned with.
''I feel we need guys at the top of the order who can bat through tough sessions and I am one of those guys.
'' This has to be one of my better hundreds in first-class cricket. My form until now has been a bit here and there, it has not quite clicked.
"The pitch was never easy. I have made some important contributions in low-scoring games and made this one all the more enjoyable.
'' My century was an important one in the state of play at the start of the day. We had a lot of work to do and I am pleased we got a decent total.''
TEA UPDATE: MIDDLESEX 258-6 WITH COMPTON 111*
Opening batsman Nick Compton scored his first century since rejoining Middlesex from Somerset to help the avert the threat of following-on at the Ageas Bowl.
At tea on the third day, Compton was 111 not out and Middlesex were 258 for six in their first innings, still 157 in arrears but needing only six more to make Hampshire bat a second time.
Compton has so far hit 17 fours and faced 229 balls but it has been hard graft for the LV=County Championship first division leaders against a tenacious Hampshire attack in which former Middlesex bowler Gareth Berg has give little away, his 20 overs costing 36 runs.
Compton, 32 overnight, lost his captain James Franklin at 117 and Neil Dexter at 152, both lbw, to Fidel Edwards and Berg respectively. That made Middlesex 152 for five and the follow-on target of 264 looked a long way of as Hamp[shire went in search of their first win of the season.
But Compton found in John Simpson a useful ally in sixth wicket stand of 59 in 31 overs to remove the possible danger.
Simpson departed at 211 pulling Sean Ervine to Michael Carberry at extra cover but new batsman Ollie Rayner held firm and was 17 not out at the interval at which Middlesex were still some way off being able to fashion their fourth win of a productive season.
Lunch Update: Middlesex reach 178-5 at lunch
Opening batsman Nick Compton battled through the third day's morning session for an unbeaten 68 but Division One leaders Middlesex were made to work for their runs at the Ageas Bowl.
At lunch Middlesex had taken their overnight 102 for three to 178 for five from 56 overs, still 235 behind Hampshire's first innings total of 413 made over the first two days.
Middlesex new captain James Franklin was the first to go six overs into the morning session, trapped lbw by West Indian Fidel Edwards for eight at 117 and scoring became slow with his departure.
Compton did break free from his shackles to take 12 off an over from young pace bowler Brad Wheal on his way to a 79-ball half-century but it was a rare glimmer of aggression. Neil Dexter, who took five wickets in the Hampshire innings, was the only other casualty of the morning, also leg before, much to the delight of the bowler Gareth Berg, axed by Middlesex at the end of last season.
Dexter had made 14 and Middlesex had lost half their batting with only 152 on the board but John Simpson joined Compton to see their team through to the interval. Compton's innings has so far occupied 129 balls and has included 12 boundaries.