Sussex are in prime position to claim their first Specsavers County Championship Division Two win of the season, requiring another 68 runs to beat Durham at Emirates Riverside on the final day.
David Wiese put his team in contention with a fine spell of bowling to claim five wickets, dismissing the home side for 189 in their second innings. Gareth Harte scored 74 vital runs for the north-east outfit to set a decent chase of 212 for the visitors.
Stiaan van Zyl dropped anchor after Durham made early inroads. The South African scored an unbeaten half-century to put his team within sight of victory at the close, leaving the home side in need of a dramatic turnaround on day four.
Wiese said after play: "It was a little bit frustrating with my bowling leading into the innings. It was coming out nicely and I hadn't quite got the rewards that I wanted to start off the season. Dizzy [Jason Gillespie] told me to keep going and the rewards will come in the end. It looks like he knows what he's talking about. It's not the best that I've felt in the last couple of games, but sometimes you bowl better and you don't pick up wickets. I'm grateful that it turned out well for me today.
"There's still a lot of cricket to be played. The first hour is going to be key. They're going to come out and know if they take one or two early wickets then it swings back in their favour. It's going to be a big job for us in the morning. Hopefully the guys can knuckle down and not lose a couple of wickets and then take it from there. There's still a long way to go for us."
Durham began day three poorly as Alex Lees fell from his first delivery of the morning, edging behind to Ben Brown off Wiese. It would be theme of the opening session as the visitors were able to take command. Harte should have followed Lees back to the pavilion, but he was dropped on 13 by Laurie Evans at mid-wicket - it would prove to be costly one for Sussex.
However, Mir Hamza made further inroads for the visitors, claiming the vital wicket of Cameron Bancroft. The Aussie played a loose drive and was caught behind for 22, while Jack Burnham was pinned lbw for five. At 70-4, Durham were in need of a partnership to stem the tide. Ned Eckersley joined Harte at the crease and the duo were able to put together a stand of 35.
Eckersley notched back-to-back boundaries off the medium pace of Tom Haines, but then slapped the next ball straight to Evans. His dismissal sparked a collapse as the hosts lost three wickets for one run. Liam Trevasksis and Ben Raine were removed by Wiese in the space of three deliveries, leaving Durham in trouble at 106-7, with a lead of only 128.
Day two - Wells digs in
Durham followed the example of Sussex's lower order from day two, with a spell of defiance of their own. James Weighell combined with Harte to add 44 for the eighth wicket. Wiese was the key man for the visitors again to break their stand before accounting for the scalp of Matt Salisbury, claiming his fifth wicket of the innings.
Harte continued his impressive knock, reaching his second fifty of the campaign from 113 deliveries, and his two boundaries highlighted his patience on a slow pitch. He added 37 runs for the final wicket with Rushworth to take Durham's lead over the 200-run mark before Jordan ended the innings, although Harte finished unbeaten on 74.
Sussex lost early wickets in their chase of 212. Phil Salt and Haines were both out cheaply falling to Rushworth and Raine respectively. Wells and Van Zyl formed a partnership to see off the threat of the new ball. Both batsmen applied themselves well at the crease, taking few risks with their shot selection. The pair put on fifty to whittle down the deficit below the 150-run mark.
Wells was continuing to be a thorn in the side of the hosts, but Salisbury struck to break the partnership for 83. Van Zyl continued his knock, reaching his fifty from 89 balls, putting the pressure on Durham. He ended the day unbeaten to leave his team on 144-3 at the close, needing only 68 runs to secure the win.